Beelines: Joyce’s apian aesthetics

2019-04-08T12:38:47Z (GMT) by Rachel Murray
This article examines the presence of apian life in James Joyce’s body of work in light of Maurice Maeterlinck’s discovery at the turn of the twentieth-century that honeybees communicate using a complex system of language. In December 1903, Joyce offered to translate Maeterlinck’s book-length study La Vie Des Abeille (The Life of the Bee) (1901)for the Irish Bee-Keeper, and the pages of the journal later resurface on a book-cart in Ulysses. Beginning with a discussion of the ‘economy of bee life’ in Stephen Hero, this article explores Joyce’s career-long fascination with nonhuman modes of communication, tracing his fascination with apian intelligence through close readings of Bloom’s bee-sting in Ulysses, as well as through the swarm of references that appear in Finnegans Wake. Finally, it argues that bees offer new ways of reading Joyce’s work, opening up new lines of connection between the fields of literary criticism and apiculture, and drawing the reader’s attention to the peripheral hum or murmur at the edges of human speech.