The darker side of this mode of thought is referred to by Jacob Bronowski
standing in the ash pond outside Aushwitz saying that this is how people
behave when they aspire to absolute knowledge and that scientific endeavour
is concerned with what we can know in spite of our fallibility.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Carrol Cox" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Friday, January 18, 2013 3:39 PM
Subject: Truth not a relevant criterion of poetry uRE: a note on Truth
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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.
> 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
> 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
> 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.
> 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.