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School of Languages, Linguistics and Film

An introduction to Dr Kyle Shernuk

Dr Kyle Shernuk has recently joined the School of Languages, Linguistics and Film and is the programme lead for BA Liberal Arts and the L2 Chinese pathway in Modern Languages. We caught up with him to find out more about studying Chinese - take a look below.


"Knowledge about China, its people, and its culture has been and will remain an indispensable component for understanding any number of global issues and trends."

Introduce yourself and your area of expertise

My name is Kyle Shernuk and I come to QMUL from Boston (the US one!) and am originally from Kansas (the very middle of America). My research broadly focuses on modern Chinese-language literature and film, with a particular interest in disempowered and marginalised populations. My current project investigates the techniques and politics of expressing ethnic identities in Chinese-language literatures.

How did you get into your research area of expertise?

My foray into Chinese literature began by happenstance. When I arrived at university, I decided to learn the hardest languages I could think of, which led me to both Chinese and Arabic (in the US, you don’t have to specialise until as late as the beginning of year three, so I was taking time to explore). Chinese ended up being a better fit, and my professor there encouraged me to pursue my study of Chinese literature further. Since then, I have studied abroad, lived, and worked in greater China for more than six years, earned four degrees related to Chinese literature, and made promoting the understanding of China one of my professional commitments.

Why do you think your research area of expertise is of value/benefit to the world around us?

From a sheer numbers’ perspective, I think there are statistically good reasons that we should be learning about China and Chinese culture. Representing almost 20% of the global population, the Chinese people are one of the most statistically significant groups of people on the planet. From an economic perspective, China is either already the most important economy in the world or on track to become so in the next decade, depending on what metrics you use. In more literary terms, the publishing market in China is projected to be valued at almost USD$25 billion by 2025*, and readers in China are consistently ranked as some of the most avid in the world. While there is certainly more to the world than just numbers, knowledge about China, its people, and its culture has been and will remain an indispensable component for understanding any number of global issues and trends.

More specifically about Chinese literature, I would say that it gives us access to Chinese cultural and political trends in real-time. For example, novels by established writers – such as Yu Hua’s To Live, Wang Anyi’s Song of Everlasting Sorrow, or Nobel prize laureate Mo Yan’s Red Sorghum – provide readers with not only an introduction to major moments of Chinese history, but also a picture of how such historical events and their legacies structure the contemporary culture and politics in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Stories like Chan Koon-chung’s The Fat Years and The Unbearable Dreamworld of Champa the Driver, by contrast, represent critical voices that interrogate mainstream opinions and ideas. And then there are novels from the Sinophone (or Chinese-speaking) world, such as Bai Xianyong’s (also spelled P’ai Hsien-yung) Taipei People; the sisters Chu T’ien-hsin and Chu T’ien-wen and their works The Old Capital and Notes of Desolate Man, respectively, that offer a glimpse of Taiwanese culture and politics through the lens of the island’s distinct colonial and contested histories; and the short stories of Malaysian-Chinese writer Kim Chew Ng (also called Huang Jinshu), that are critical of diasporic Chinese’s obsession with China. Overall, it is not an exaggeration to say that literature can provide us a picture of a society at a given moment – with great nuance and, in many cases, more efficiency than the social sciences – which makes it an excellent medium learning about a culture or society, even if you plan to pursue a non-literary career.

What modules can students expect to find you teaching in the near future?

In this term (Semester B 2022), I will be teaching SML4047 on Chinese Short Fiction. The module will cover a range of writing from throughout Chinese history. We’ll cover everything from moralistic stories and tales of the strange from the Ming dynasty to early twentieth-century fiction of enlightenment and enchantment; and from Chinese Cold War imaginings to the newest frontiers of science fiction.

What will you be focussing on this year (and beyond).

I'm currently workong on the Department of Modern Languages and Culture’s new BA degree pathway in Chinese Studies as part of the BA in Modern Languages route. We're looking to welcoming students onto the route from September 2022, so we're currently working on this exciting new pathway. Beyond that, I'm continuing to work on my current book project, which focusses on issues of ethnic and indigenous identity in contemporary Sinophone literatures.

What drew you to QMUL?

I was very attracted to QMUL’s demonstrated commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion, which forms a central component of my own teaching practices. Moreover, the opportunity to teach such motivated and engaged students is, I think, what all teachers hope for, as we learn so much from our students’ engagement with classroom materials.


Visit the coursefinder to find out more about the BA in Modern Languages.

Visit the coursefinder to find out more about the BA in Liberal Arts.



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