An author and an academic, Kiernan completed a Master of Arts Degree and a Diploma of Education at Melbourne University.
In the late 1960s Kiernan was appointed as a lecturer in Literature at the Swinburne College of Technology in Melbourne. He left there in 1972 to join the English Department of the University of Sydney as a lecturer, teaching American and Australian literature. In 1987 he was appointed as an Associate Professor of English at the University of Sydney. Kiernan has also been a lecturer for the Australia Council and the Department of Foreign Affairs at universities in France, Italy, Denmark and England. In 1976 he was Visiting Fellow in American Studies at Yale University.
As well as his work as a university teacher, Kiernan has written and edited books on Australian fiction, poetry and drama and contributed articles and reviews to a number of newspapers and journals.
(Major source: National Library of Australia finding aid.)