Beelines: Joyce's Apian Aesthetics

Rachel Murray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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This article examines the presence of apian life in James Joyce’s body of work in light of Maurice Maeterlinck’s discovery in 1901 that bees exhibit complex forms of communication. In December 1903, Joyce offered to translate Maeterlinck’s book-length study La Vie Des Abeille [The Life of the Bee] 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.
Original languageEnglish
Article number42
Number of pages15
Issue number2
Early online date16 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2017

Bibliographical note

Special issue: James Joyce, Animals and the Nonhuman


  • James Joyce
  • Stephen Hero
  • Ulysses
  • Finnegans Wake
  • Maurice Maeterlinck
  • bees
  • apiculture
  • swarm intelligence


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