I've never been a fan. Actually scratch that. I think it has its place, but I think that place is limited. I definitely enjoyed it more when we broke into small groups to do critiques.
(For real though, there are some serious advantages to this type of critique, as much as it kind of sucks to sit through one. It's very helpful for people who are new to writing (or new to sharing their writing--I know some people write for YEARS without letting anyone see) when the impulse is still very much to either apologize for or defend your work (or both) as soon as someone says something less than glowing about it. It's also very helpful for practicing GIVING critiques--and it has the added bonus of letting you hear a lot of other people delivering critiques. So, there, it has its place.)
Past that, though, meh. I feel like they're kind of empty. I always came away from those classes feeling like I got a lot of surface information, but rarely was I inspired to really dig into my story. Partially because of time constraints, and partially because I could never ask someone to go further with their comments without breaking the pesky silent rule. (That also could be because in class we always did short stories, and if I'm not working in 50k plus words then I don't really care and I was never very attached to my short stories.)
I had the hardest time sitting there in silence, not because I wanted to defend myself (okay there's always that), but because when someone said something particularly insightful about my writing, I wanted to start a conversation with that person RIGHT THERE. I wanted to pick their brain, or bounce ideas, or ask them "what if" scenarios. Honestly, I usually failed at being silent, because I'd pipe up "oh wow I didn't think of that! So you think that if I did this instead, then xyz would go better. If I tell you abc, then what do you think?" And then I'd get one of THOSE looks from the prof and I'd shrink back and shut up. Until the next insightful comment...
I'm not really sure what my point is. Maybe simply getting a mini-frustration off my chest that I've had since college!
Is there anyone out there who can happily sit in silence during a silent author critique? (If you're out there...I may have to pick your brain. I find that fascinating.)