Hello – My name is Ryan Donaghue. I was born a little outside of Glasgow, as the second oldest of five siblings. Growing up my father read me stories of Narnia and Lyra. As my younger siblings were born the house filled with noise. I loved escaping to read in the quiet. This love of reading eventually took me on to Trinity College, Cambridge to study English Literature. There I learned a form of deep reading called practical criticism that changed how I thought about the world – and myself. This process transformed my relationships to reading. I saw the books I loved through new eyes. I would like to offer this same transformational experience, and the skills that go with it, to anyone interested in books. Hopefully, this website is one of the ways I can do this and offer useful resources to you.
What is Practical Criticism?
Practical criticism is basically a very detailed exploration of the word patterns in a text. It was invented in Cambridge by a professor called I.A. Richards who gave his students thirteen texts without any context and asked for their readings. Practical Criticism focuses specifically on the words inside a text, repeating the initial lack of context I.A. Richard’s students encountered, and explores specific formal elements - such as viewpoint, character and imagery. The purpose of this practical criticism is to reveal the meaning hidden inside the form of a text. If you’re interested in learning more the Critical Commentaries page contains several examples of what a practical criticism reading of a text might look like.
Why I Read
The purpose of Literature is to transform meaning. Meaning is both our personal and social agreement about the value or use of a word, sign or symbol and our individual visions of the truth of ourselves and the world. Literature connects these two paradigms. Reading and writing are joint acts of creativity where the creation and interpretation of art allows us access to another person’s vision of the world. Literature unites reader and writer in a mutual search for the expansion of individual and collective consciousness through a special use of language to form a symbolic discourse. In learning how to read critically and deeply we learn to see the world differently.
I offer a series of courses across different platforms designed to transform your reading experience and develop your practical criticism skills.
How to Read Like a Cambridge Graduate
Discount Code (from £124.99 to £30): 5277AA8B0AFB4D71EEBE
Literature and the Comic Spirit
Explore the development of modern drama from Ibsen through to Brecht and Beckett and ending with the experimental contemporary drama of Caryl Churchill.
Get in touch with me at for more information