The Poetry of Kahlil Gibran

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  • Topic: Khalil Gibran, Poetry, Lebanon
  • Pages : 10 (3582 words )
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  • Published : May 31, 2013
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Student Number: 40027909
Finnian Coyle BA3 English
Final Year Project

"Kahlil Gibran is said to be one of the world's bestselling poets, and his life has inspired a play touring the UK and the Middle East. But many critics have been lukewarm about his merits. Why, then, has poetry struck such a chord with generations of readers?" (Shoku and Hegarty) Explore this comment, focusing on the literary power of Gibran’s work, use of language, poetic devices etc.

"Kahlil Gibran is said to be one of the world's bestselling poets, and his life has inspired a play touring the UK and the Middle East. But many critics have been lukewarm about his merits. Why, then, has poetry struck such a chord with generations of readers?" (Shoku and Hegarty) Explore this comment, focusing on the literary power of Gibran’s work, use of language, poetic devices etc. Kahlil Gibran’s work has divided literary opinion worldwide. Hugely popular and said to have over 10 million copies sold globally, Gibran’s popularity is unquestionable. However there are a large number of, particularly English, critics who are openly dismissive and negative about his work as a whole. “Even though his major works were in English after 1918, and though he is one of bestselling poets in American history, he was disdained by English professors." (Shoku and Hegarty) In this paper I aim to research the reasons for Gibran’s popularity and heavy criticism, especially in relation to the refusal of many Western critics to consider his work as a valued part of the Western literary canon. I aim to focus specifically on his poetry, such as that found in the collection Sand and Foam, and extracts from other areas of his collected works.

Bushrui and Jenkins summarise the heavily weighted amount of academic and authorised literary criticism targeted towards Gibran’s work: “One of the major difficulties in any scholarly attempt to study the life and works of Kahlil Gibran is the irreconcilable attitudes of those who have deified him and those who have dismissed him as a mere populist poet on the other. Added to all this is the fact that critical opinions of his works swing violently from the eulogistic to the condemnatory. Gibran, however, defied every critical apparatus. His work has remained an inspiration to millions throughout the world, young and old alike, and the recent resurgence of interest in his life and works testifies to the permanence of his thought and the continuity of its influence throughout the English-speaking world and beyond.” (287) The core philosophy and prophetic nature of Gibran’s literature may be one reason for criticism. The tradition of utilising philosophical literature, especially pertaining to quotes from Asian or Indian origin, is one which is widely circulated and utilised in Western culture. These mantras and quotations can be seen in everyday diaries, and are widely quoted in public events. Furthermore it could be that the abstract nature of the spiritual messages which are not fully compatible with the Western psyche. Robert Hillyer wrote in his 1949 article ‘The Thoughts of a Mystic’ that Gibran, born Lebanese, uses this sense of the orient to allow him to legitimately deal with somewhat abstract and common topics which Western writers cannot: “Gibran's writings have gained him a wide following among those sensitive, emotional readers who find their chief pleasure in moods, mysterious and indefinite, which bear them through a cosmic landscape beyond the frets of everyday. No Western writer dealing with such large abstractions would sound natural. But from an oriental source they seem as appropriate as they are exotic. It is an easy magic, too vague to be lasting, but not harmful.” This popularity of these philosophical quotes is mirrored in Gibran’s popularity worldwide. “What is irrefutable is that The Prophet is among the most widely read books of the century and that Gibran’s worldwide reputation...
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