Nancy G:. Eliot's method is reiterated assertion; it is not--since there
is none--a proof.
That, I think, is the method used when the writer, privately, gives not a
damn whether anyone accepts his position or not; he (or shd) merely wants to
make it clear that it _is_ his/her opinion. And it is a method which, to
some extent, characterizes many/most of the major writers born in the last
decades of the 196h-c, coming of age shortly after the turn of the century.
If you read the critics of the end of the century ("deliquescent
romanticism" was Maynard Mack's label for the period) the 'method' makes
sense. But a century later, reading Eliot for the "truthd" in his work seems
pretty silly. (In general one does not read poems or fictions for
ontological, metaphysical, ethical, political "truth.") When, in an
argumentative post, essay, etc. I may quote Milton or Pope or Pound, but
_not_ with the implication that the quotation is any evidence for the
validity of my argument.
An example. One can derive from Rosa Luxemburg an important historical
political proposition: we may well lose but it's worth fighting anyhow. (The
damage being done to the environment probably cannot be reversed and
barbarism or worse is the human future. But then no species ever exists
permanently). I've combed my memory for some verse that would give color to
that; it doesn't exist But a quite non-political poem captures the feeling
(but does not make the proposition either more or less probable):
"My Love is of a birth so rare. As 'tis for object strange and high; It was
begotten by Despair Upon Impossibility. . . ."
That is the way poets or novelists should be used: merely (!) to make more
visible a position argued for quite independently of the author quoted. (The
argument from authority is very often valid, but only in particular
contexts. Luxemburg bears no authority _here_ an is not cited as such; in
some other contexts I do cite her position as probative.) Eliot is no
longer an "authority" which anyone can quote with a straight face.