Lesson Plan: The Life and Work of Kahlil Gibran

Lesson Plan - The Life and Work of Kahlil Gibran


Kahlil Gibran, poet, philosopher and author of The Prophet is one of the world's all-time best-selling authors. His works have been translated into more than fifty languages and The Prophet alone has sold over eight million copies.

The goal of this lesson is to introduce students to the life and the work of this Lebanese-American writer. The lesson will also try to encourage students to look at Gibran in his social-historical context and examine his place in the American canon of literature. (Note: Before this lesson, assign your students to read the ADC issue paper on Gibran and selections from The Prophet. If you have time, assign all of The Prophet.)

Key Points about Gibran's life:

· From the village of Bsharri in Lebanon. Born in 1883. His family lived near poverty with a drunken, abusive father. Despite this, Gibran always remembered fondly his childhood spent in the Bekka valley of Lebanon.

· Emigrated to the US in 1895 with his mother, Kamileh, sisters Mariana and Sultana and brother Peter. Lived in Boston. Mother and sisters worked as seamstresses and his brother ran a shop.

· 1897: Went back to Beirut to study. Returned to the US in 1901

· Drawings first exhibited in 1904. At exhibit, Gibran met Mary Haskell who was to become a life-long friend, mentor and editor.

· Formed Ar-Rabitah Al- Qalamyiah, an Arab-American cultural society in 1911.

· Moved to New York in 1912. On Mary's recommendation, began perfecting his English and writing in his adopted language. First published in English in 1915.

· Became very politically active during the war. Wanted to go to Lebanon and take part in the fighting against the Ottoman army but a shoulder injury kept him in America.

· Sat on the boards of two magazines, The Seven Arts and Fatat Boston. Contributed to other magazines such as Al-Mouhajer and Al-Funna throughout his career. Joined Golden Links Society. All these magazines and societies created a forum for Arabic writers and intellectuals in America.

· Continued exhibiting paintings and publishing novels. The Prophet published in 1923.

· Died on April 10th 1931. Buried in Lebanon.

Significance of his work:

· Very spiritual books. Strongly attached to the Maronite Catholic tradition, though he was excommunicated by the Maronite church for Spirits Rebellious, a book that criticized the structure of the church and the state. Wanted to show the basic similarities and unity between Islam and Christianity. He had previously dreamed of building an edifice in Beirut with a church's dome and a mosque's minaret.

· Believed in an independent Syrian Arab state, separate from the Ottoman Empire. Encouraged Arab uprisings around the time of the First World War.

· Champion of cause of women's education in Syria, advocated modernism and liberalism. Engaged in a long correspondence with May Ziadeh, a young Palestinian writer living in Cairo, that started in 1912 and lasted until his death.

· One of young Arab emigres who lived and wrote in the West in the 1910s and 1920s (like Ameen Rihani or Mikhail Naimy, with whom he formed Arrabitah) who encouraged Arab nationalism in their Ottoman-controlled homeland.

· As the most famous Arab emigre writer, he had a great influence over future generations of Arab-Americans such as Eugene Paul Nassar whose collection of poems, Wind of the Land, bears strong stylistic resemblances to Gibran's poetry (Majaj, 1996).

· Regular contributor of Syrian World, a publication bringing together Arab-Americans in which he promoted his political views. The magazine helped the new immigrant community adapt to the American mainstream. He is important in the context of Arab immigration to America as he represented one who has "made it" to immigrants in the 1920's. His was an Arab-American success story.

· Gibran was very popular in the US but was not very well-known in the Arab world until his death. He did not have a very strong political influence in the Ottoman province of Greater Syria.

· His books have been translated into more than 50 languages and sold over 8 million copies. His most famous work, The Prophet, is now in its 117th printing.

· Has influenced many public figures with his message of peace, compassion and his faith in the human race. Strong social message in his work (Kennedy's "Ask not..." from Gibran's "Are you a politician asking what your country can do for you