History or Messages from History
Written in 1930, History or Messages from History explores the meaning of history in opposition to what Stein scholar Donald Gallup has described as “its narrative of past, present, and future events and rumors.” In this poetically conceived prose work, Stein sets historical concepts against narrative patterns of meaning. Words and phrases such as “baking a cake,” “birds,” “apricots,” “begonias,” “dogs,” “horses and oxen,” and many others are subtly repeated, each time in a slightly different context, to weave a seeming narrative pattern which is set against the reader’s own history as he or she makes their way through Stein’s text.
The very experience of these recurring images, which do not actually function as narrative but seem to point to it, helps the reader perceive Stein’s own definition: History is the learning of spectacular consistency privately and learning it alone and when more comes they receive.
Written at a time when Stein was exploring concepts of history through her historical dramas and other writings, History or Messages from History is a crucial work in understanding her ideas.