Photo from here.
Apropos of fruitful engagement with Rohan Maitzen over the merits of evaluative criticism, here’s Jean O’Grady on how Northrop Frye deals with the issue:
"As a reviewer, Frye was not entirely bound by his own notorious stand against value-judgments, that the function of the academic critic is not to sit on high pronouncing whether a work is good or bad, but rather to see what the work is trying to do and how it relates to existing literature. Indeed, he bore witness to his less-noticed concession that value judgments are inevitable on one level, even though they may reflect only one’s cultural conditioning. He hit upon some ingenious ways of commenting on poems that were unlikely to be keepers. "Arthur Bourinot’s The Treasures of the Snow affects a very short line which would be well adapted for bringing out rhythmical subtleties if there were more subtleties to bring out." "Of [the books] in the check-list below, some achieve a certain uniform competence, . . . but otherwise there is nothing for a reviewer to say except to hope that they will find their audience." Edna Jaques was one of the most popular poets of the time. "The opening lines of her book indicate her mastery of the central technical device of nostalgic verse, a list of reminders or stimuli, vigorously checked off one after the other:
The strong clean smell of yellow soap, A farmer plowing with a team, The taste of huckleberry pie A pan of milk with wrinkled cream.
No, if this kind of thing is worth writing, Miss Jaques is certainly the person who knows best how to write it, and all our poets who are ambitious of belonging to the ‘conservative’ or ‘romantic’ school should learn about nostalgia from her."
In spite of such equivocations, necessary to one who was expected to comment on every offering, he kept in mind that his primary function was to elucidate. In his Canadian reviews he showed that reading current poetry is an essential cultural activity, "the poetic conversation of cultivated people," and thus he helped to build up a reading public that would allow an indigenous, mature literature to flower."