How is the universal theme word of change used throughout each literary time period?

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James Kelley eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This question seems to me difficult to answer. Maybe I don't fully understand what's being asked, but I'll still take a short at a partial answer.

Let me say first that I understand your term "literary time period" to mean the standard divisions of literary history into sections such as "romanticism," "realism," and "modernism." Those divisions are helpful, of course, but they're also vague and often a particular literary work will exhibit characteristics of two or more of these periods at the same time.

It's probably not possible to say with certainty that most or all writers in any one period viewed the idea of "change" differently than those in other periods, but maybe some generalizations are possible.

In modernism, for example, I think that authors generally viewed the dramatic social changes of the early twentieth century with at least as much fear as they did wonder. Writing in the shadow of World War I, with its massive casualities and scarred landscapes, writers tended to see that technological innovations as equally capable of improving life or destroying it (e.g. automobiles improved our lives but poison gas did not). Many modernist writers similarly seem to thrive in the social changes in the 1920s that permit a greater equality for women and a greater visibility of lesbian and gay identities (e.g. Djuna Barnes and Gertrude Stein), but other writers (e.g. Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald) don't seem to me quite as enthusiastic about changing gender roles and loosening social strictures.