This is my comment on Don Brown's thoughtful piece "Getting Serious/Having Fun" (which is in part a response to my essay on Frost):
I keep coming back lately (for various reasons, both positive and negative) to Peter von Matt's "Die verdächtige Pracht." Von Matt describes two important characteristics of poems: they want to be beautiful, and they want to be immortal.
Neither of these desires necessarily has anything to do with meaning or with interpretation. Frost's "The Mountain" marks how the desire for meaning is, in a sense, derivative—always preceded by a desire for pleasure.
But as you suggest, Don, that does not apply to literary criticism. I have often considered "quality" to be the cat that criticism does not want to let out of the bag, but there are two cats in there: quality and pleasure. If they get out, then the project of criticism is ironized, as you suggest, and the critic becomes insecure and rejects the work that has let those cats out.
Von Matt's book is interesting in this respect, too: whenever he begins to do hard-core close reading, he apologizes to his audience, asking them to bear with him while he does a necessary bit of "philology." This allows him, as a friend of mine suggested, to maintain his status as "the one in the know," his professional status. He lets the cats out, but he still wants to hold the bag.