Table of Contents Table of Contents
Previous Page  246 / 126 Next Page
Show Menu
Previous Page 246 / 126 Next Page
Page Background






sounds of words. We think of Rome, imperial, imperious,

imperative” (Joyce, 1986: 108). The grandeur of Rome, he

argues, lies in the sewers: “What was their civilisation? Vast, I

allow: but vile.


: sewers” (108). In his opinion, the

Romans focused on grossly materialistic values and disregarded

spiritualistic ones, and this rendered their civilization vile.

Despite what he says about words, nevertheless, MacHugh is


or obsessed

by the sounds of words, as evident in the

verbal dexterity shown above. Mikics states convincingly that

the professor surrenders to the lure of rhetoric when he

criticizes the Romans: “MacHugh, denouncing Rome, is

transformed into a parody of the Roman orator, a victim of the

very rhetoric he pretends to reject” (1990: 541). Indeed,

MacHugh acts as the supreme orator in the

Evening Telegraph

office in spite of his rejection of Roman oratory. Although he

teaches Latin, moreover, he prefers Greek to “the blatant Latin

language”: “The Greek! . . . The radiance of the intellect. I

ought to profess Greek, the language of the mind” (Joyce,

1986: 110). MacHugh is clearly trapped in the dichotomy

between the spiritual and the material, and therefore disdains

the “blatant” Latin. Mikics notes the irony in the professor’s

detestation of the language: “MacHugh styles himself a lover

of the Hellenic, but as a professor of Latin rather than Greek,

he helps perpetuate the culture he complains against” (1990:

541). What is even more ironic is the fact that he associates

Greece, “the empire of the spirit,” with “a lost cause,” and

denounces success in favor of failure: “We were always loyal to

lost causes. . . . Success for us is the death of the intellect and

of the imagination. We were never loyal to the successful. We

serve them” (Joyce, 1986: 110). At a time when the Irish were

striving for freedom, the scholar and educator announces that

he embraces failure rather than success. Comparing O’Molloy

and MacHugh, Herr has it that whereas the barrister “is simply

beaten down by failure,” the professor “perversely glories in it”

(74). Seen in light of Ireland’s subjection to the British Empire,