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The Ethics of Prophecy, Utopian Dream, and Dystopian Reality: A Comparative Study of Thomas More’s Utopia and Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet Open Access


Other title
The Prophet
Kahlil Gibran
Thomas More
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Alzaid, Reem M.
Supervisor and department
Verdicchio, Massimo (Modern Languages and Cultural Studies)
Examining committee member and department
Sywenky, Irene (Modern Languages and Cultural Studies)
Whitinger, Raleigh (Modern Languages and Cultural Studies)
Comparative Literature

Date accepted
Graduation date
2016-06:Fall 2016
Master of Arts
Degree level
The main purpose of this study is to compare Thomas More’s Utopia and Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet in relation to their context, as well as to determine how they were received by the academic community. More and Gibran created imaginary worlds in order to criticize their own communities, and to outline what could be the elements of an ideal society. They were educators who created imaginary places in order to fashion their utopian dream. Although they came from different cultures and eras, they touched on common social problems that are still relevant today in our modern society, such as materialism, fanaticism, and the restriction of individual freedom. They were concerned with what constitutes a utopian society and what are the necessary characteristics of an ideal state. Chapter one focuses on Khalil Gibran’s life and on how his personal life and historical background are reflected in his main work The Prophet. The chapter also examines the impact of his hybrid identity as a Lebanese-American immigrant on his writing. Gibran spent his life between the East and the West, and was influenced by both cultures and literatures. This chapter examines how Gibran’s biography contributed to the success of The Prophet and to what extent it is a multireligious and multicultural text. The Prophet went through a long process of gestation before it was published in English which, as now, was the universal language at the time, and which contributed enormously to the popularity of the work. Chapter two looks at More’s biography as the author of Utopia and evaluates how it can be read as a critique of England in the fifteenth century. Utopia has been interpreted in many ways given the contradictions which arise in the text which are responsible for its many ambiguities. In Book I, More appears to criticize English tradition by presenting his Utopia as an ideal commonwealth. Hythloday, the main character of the work, admires these Utopian traditions when in fact More satirizes them for these same reasons. What More criticizes in Book I corresponds to what is said to be positive in utopian society in Book II. This chapter also discusses how interpretations of Utopia differ over time and how some critics have read it as a representation of an ideal commonwealth while others have viewed it as a criticism of English society and culture. Chapter three is a comparative study of More’s Utopia and Gibran’s The Prophet and it deals with their different versions of utopia. The first part of the chapter discusses the major themes that these works have in common such as pride and how it can be destructive in a society when linked to religion or material possessions. Individual freedom is the other major topic they have in common. Both More and Gibran embrace the concept of individualism and reject the idea of a collectivist society. For them, what is destructive of a community is the repression of the individual and his desires. More’s and Gibran’s dream of Utopia, while related to their specific and different backgrounds, find a common ground in their hopes for a similar ideal society. The thesis concludes with a Conclusion that summarizes the differences and similarities between these two authors.
This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for the purpose of private, scholarly or scientific research. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
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