Fall 1954 • Vol. XVI No. 4 NonfictionOctober 1, 1954 |

The Concrete Universal: Observations on the Understanding of Poetry

I have been reading the new book by Professor W. K. Wimsatt, Jr., entitled The Verbal Icon (University of Kentucky Press, $4.00). It is a collection of essays about critical procedures, their hazards and "fallacies," and how to make them secure. Mr. Wimsatt is of reasonable temper, and he has read everything. Being at Yale, he must have associated with both members of the famous partnership of Brooks and Warren, and with one member of the other famous partnership of Wellek and Warren (the two Warrens being not identical of course); and on the whole I believe he is regarded as a kind of "new" critic, a late and technically accomplished one. But we come to the essay where he advises that the understanding of a poem can be fitted pretty well into a kind of Hegelian disposition: for him a poem is a structure which may be viewed as a Concrete Universal. And suddenly we are in the deep waters of one of the great philosophical systems. The Concrete Universal. Is this the language for a

Already have an account? Login

Join KR for even more to read.

Register for a free account to read five free pieces a month from our current issue and digital archive.
Register for Free and Read This Piece

Or become a subscriber today and get complete, immediate access to our digital archives at every subscription level.

Read More


Your free registration with Kenyon review incudes access to exclusive content, early access to program registration, and more.


With your support, we’ll continue 
to cultivate talent and publish extraordinary literature from diverse voices around the world.