Influence of America on the Literary Works of Khalil Gibran

Date:  2021-03-12 23:59:31
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According to Wellek and Austin, literature is anything that is in print (9). In this context, the human history and its attributes can be captured using literature. As a result, human culture is an integral part of literature. As Wellek and Austin observe in their dissemination of the nature of literature, it is unavoidable to separate literature from culture; we must see our work in the light of its possible contribution to the history of culture (10). In this context, the works of Khalil Gibran were affected by his experiences of American culture despite coming from an Arabic background. The move to the United States had a significant influence on the literary works of Khalil Gibran.

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According to Fatah, Gibran was of the opinion that Arabic literature when crossed over to the West, was found to be one of the richest in the world (1). Fatah also observes that moving to the West had a significant impact on Gibran and his works. The United States influence on Gibrans work according to Fatah can be seen in the combination of philosophical analysis, spiritual contemplation, and religious faith influenced by Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism that marked his work (2).

Gibb is among the authors who recognized the influx of Arabic literature into the West. Gibb recognizes the fusion of Arabic and Western influence in Khalils work. Gibb is of the opinion that Khalil represented a group of Arabic writers in what he termed as the Arabic Renaissance (182). The implied notion here is that life in the West had a significant influence in the works of Khalil and can be seen in his literature.

Jean Gibran provides a personal perspective to Khalil Gibrans life and work in the 1974 work Kahlil Gibran His Life and World. Khalil according to Jean is a man who came from the East and added spirituality to his work in the West. His work was unique for it contained spirituality in a country where freedom, democracy and equality of opportunity made it possible to adopt a mix of cultures and perspectives.

Khalil Semaan is of the opinion that poet T. S Eliot had a major influence on many poets and authors of Arab origin. Among these poets, Semaan mentions Gibran as having been greatly influenced by the works of Eliot (474). Gibrans use of the rhymed couplet form that is evident in many of his Arabic works is synonymous with Eliots use of the same. However, the rhymed couplet form is lost in translation. Semaan asserts that the West had a significant influence in triggering the revolution in Arab literature. However, the Arabs did not lose all their elements under the influence of the West; they added an element of spirituality to fuse the cultures together (474).

Nassar attributes the works of Gibran as having a struggle to exist in two cultures leading to merits and defects in his work (21). The combined influence of Lebanese-Arab and American culture led Gibran to practice a pseudo-wisdom posture referred to as exultant dualism (Nassar 21). Gibrans struggle to live a life in a mix of cultures can be seen in his most important lyrical works such as The Prophet (Nassar 21). The lyrical passages that Gibran produced are indications of his pangs of cultural discontinuity having a heritage of two cultures.

Naimy on the other hand identifies with Gibran as a poet and a mystic as opposed to a thinker (55). Gibran in his work The Prophet states that work is love made visible. His work was therefore his love (Naimy 55). Since he was not a thinker primarily and does not have system of thought, the influence of his work can be attributed to his life experience. Having lived a part of his life in Lebanon and moved to the United States, the cultural experience was different in the two countries. The experience shaped his perspectives arising from his disposition as a child of two cultures. Being a poet is a state of being rather than a state of mind (Naimy 56). Subsequently, culture played a major role in influencing the works of Gibran as a poet.

Bushrui and Jenkins analyze Gibran from the perspective of a man and as a poet. From their analysis, Gibran is said to perceive himself as an heir of Christian and Muslim traditions but was proud of his Lebanese and Arabic heritage (Bushrui & Jenkins 99). Gibran was well aware of a larger global culture brought about by civilization and to an extent admitted to being influenced by its power (Bushrui & Jenkins 99). Gibrans introduction of element of mysticism to Western literature exposed the fact that Western literature was ignorant of mysticism at the time (Bushrui & Jenkins 18). Gibran was a pioneer in the introduction of Arabic styles into western literature.

Khalil Gibran as a leading poet and writer enjoys a wide following globally. His books are among the best selling in the world and among the most read. His works were primarily influenced by his exposure to different cultures. Raised for a while in Lebanon and migrated to the United States, he was faced with contrasting cultures. The elements of the cultural influence are evident in his works with the introductions of mysticism to Western literature.

Works Cited

Bushrui, Suheil, and Joe Jenkins. Kahlil Gibran: Man and Poet. Oneworld Publications,


Fatah, Amir. "Study on Islamic Literature Viewed from Theosophical Perspective." Journal

Universitas Airlangga, 23(2), (2010). 162-167

Gibb, H. A. B. "Studia Islamica, collegerunt R. Brunschvig J. Schacht. I. 162 pp. Paris:

Larose, 1953." Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 17.01 (1955): 182-183.

Naimy, Nadeem. "The Mind and Thought of Khalil Gibran." Journal of Arabic

Literature (1974): 55-71.

Nassar, Eugene Paul, and Kahlil Gibran. "Cultural discontinuity in the works of Kahlil

Gibran." MELUS 7.2 (1980): 21-36.

Semaan, Khalil IH. "TS Eliot's Influence on Arabie Poetry and Theater."Comparative

Literature Studies (1969): 472-489.

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