Concrete universal  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

In “The Concrete Universal,” Wimsatt attempts to determine how specific or general (i.e., concrete or universal) a verbal representation must be in order to achieve a particular effect. What is the difference, for example, between referring to a “purple cow” and a “tan cow with a broken horn” (Verbal Icon 74)? In addressing such questions, Wimsatt attempts to resolve what it is that makes poetry different from other forms of communication, concluding that “what distinguishes poetry from scientific or logical discourse is a degree of concreteness which does not contribute anything to the argument but is somehow enjoyable or valuable for its own sake.” For Wimsatt, poetry is “the vehicle of a metaphor which one boards heedless of where it runs, whether cross-town or downtown — just for the ride” (76).





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