J. W. Hastings offers an earnest defense of one my least favorite critical crutches, the line "It took me right out of the story." The catalyst is this post at Peiratikos about one recent invocation of the phrase.
In response J. W. offers a thoughtful explication of a phrase that's usually deployed without much self-reflection. It's quite useful, except for the casual potshots at analytical criticism and the "academic mindset." (Most egregiously, J. W. assumes - or overstates - that practicing analytical criticism means the critic becomes unable to appreciate works of art "in a commonsense, everyday manner," that is, in terms of aesthetic enjoyment. This dichotomy is false on many levels, from its faux populist assault on the academic elites to its radical opposition of analysis and appreciation, but chiefly it overlooks the difference between experiencing a work of art and writing about it. A critic may appreciate a work aesthetically, emotionally, viscerally, but that doesn't mean they'll have anything interesting to say about their appreciation. Having read more of the "pre-theory" American literary criticism from the 1950s and 1960s than I'd care to, I greatly appreciate those analytic critics who spare us their unremarkable thoughts on aesthetics and tastemaking.)
I can see where the potshots come from, though, because I think Steven Berg and Dave Fiore read "It took me right out of the story" too literally as indicating a total commitment to illusionism and a loss of the distinction between fantasy and reality. J. W. offers a much more sensible and charitable interpretation of the phrase as a condensed argument about genre conventions and expectations. (In fact, in his reading the phrase becomes a tiny act of analysis, a good illustration that appreciation and critical thought are not as mutually exclusive as his post suggests.)
But I don't see a bias against aesthetic appreciation in Steven's or Dave's comments - I see a bias against a certain kind of obdurately lazy critical shorthand. "It took me out of the story" may sometimes convey the generic analysis J. W. describes, but all too often it's a handy way for reviewers to pass off a personal preference as a structural flaw in the work under discussion.
The line seems especially inappropriate for the story that started this discussion, Grant Morrison and Ed McGuinness's JLA: Classified #1, where Morrison's scripting of a Batman in possession of a "sci-fi closet" (paging Andy Medhurst!) has irritated some readers who would prefer a Batman more in continuity with the street-level "urban legend" of his own titles. The discrepancy between the two versions of the same character took them right out of the story.
Yet the more charitable interpretation doesn't appear to apply here. Morrison's story features a floating city of superhuman marines, an infant universe, a parasitic intelligence from "the vampire sun" and a man-eating telepathic gorilla. Which, in this tale, would be the greater violation of that generic wiggle room: a typically hypercompetent Batman with an emergency supply of sci-fi goodies, or the sudden appearance of a terse, broken, bleeding urban avenger in the Miller-cum-Bendis mold? Would such a character better fit this story? Would the knowledge that DC comics had maintained its inter-title continuity soothe over any gaping narrative cracks it created? And would that reaction truly be any more "commonsense" than Steven's or Dave's?
The problem isn't obtusely illusionistic readers or obtusely analytical academics, it's the obtusely lazy criticism that comes with the reliance on any cliché.