How do students of English learn to analyze literature? How do they come up with new things to say about texts that everyone doesn't already know?
The essence of the question is given above, but personal background follows, which might be helpful for people writing answers.
I’m an English major having an incredibly difficult time coming up with my own ideas about texts. When I finish reading a set text, I usually have a pretty good idea of what the broad themes are, but beyond that, I don’t have much to say that everyone doesn’t already know. I don’t have any real insights. Reading the suggested material on the texts (mostly articles from literary journals) is not too helpful; they are filled with wonderful ideas but you can’t use those ideas in your own essay (because that would be plagiarism) and citing them would reveal that my work is really just a patchwork of things other, smarter people have said.
I’m really lost here. I moved to the US with my family as a junior in high school, and the country I am from did not encourage original work at all. I wouldn’t be surprised if most college students there aren’t even aware of the concept of plagiarism. I feel like my upbringing killed any creative potential I may have had. I love reading, and I love reading what literary scholars have written about those texts because they often amaze me with all the little connections they make, all the details they notice that just don’t occur to me. Even my professors always have such astute and (I’m guessing) original remarks to make in lectures. I feel so inspired when I read something especially brilliant or illuminating, but that inspiration leads me nowhere. I mean, I notice things like images and metaphors but I almost never know what to make of them. Laura in The Glass Menagerie likes collecting little glass animals, but… so what? What does it mean?
I’m assuming at least some of you who visit this site have been or currently are English majors too. I just want to ask you, how do you do it? I’m far too embarrassed to talk to a classmate or professor about this. Do I just not have a literary brain? Could someone like me learn to analyze literature like an English major should?