Merle Hodge was born in 1944, in Curepe, Trinidad, the daughter of an immigration officer. She received both her elementary and high-school education in Trinidad, and as a student of Bishop Anstey High School, she won the Trinidad and Tobago Girls' Island Scholarship in 1962. The scholarship allowed her to attend University College, London, where she pursued studies in French. In 1965 she completed her B.A. Hons. and received a Master of Philosophy degree in 1967, the focus of which concerned the poetry of the French Guyanese writer Léon Damas.
Hodge did quite a bit of traveling after obtaining her degree, working as a typist and baby-sitter to make ends meet. She spent much time in France and Denmark but visited many other countries in both Eastern and Western Europe. After returning to Trinidad in the early 1970s, she taught French for a short time at the junior secondary level. She then received a lecturing position in the French Department at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Jamaica. At UWI she also began the pursuit of a Ph.D. in French Caribbean Literature. In 1979 Maurice Bishop became prime minister of Grenada, and Hodge went there to work with the Bishop regime. She was appointed director of the development of curriculum, and it was her job to develop and install a socialist education program. Hodge had to leave Grenada in 1983 because of the execution of Bishop and the resulting U.S. invasion. Hodge is currently working in Women and Development Studies at the University of the West Indies in Trinidad.
Writings and themes
To date, Merle Hodge has written two novels: Crick Crack, Monkey (1970) and The Life of Laetitia, which was published more than two decades later, in 1993.
Hodge's first novel, Crick Crack, Monkey, concerns the conflicts and changes a young girl, Tee, faces as she switches from a rural Trinidadian existence with her Aunt Tantie to an urban, anglicized existence with her Aunt Beatrice. With Tee as narrator, Hodge guides the reader through an intensely personal study of the effects of the colonial imposition of various social and cultural values on the Trinidadian female. Tee recounts the various dilemmas in her life in such a way that it is often difficult to separate the voice of the child, experiencing, from the voice of the woman, reminiscing; in this manner, Hodge broadens the scope of the text considerably. Cultural appropriation, when those who are colonized appropriate the culture of the colonizers, is exemplifed in the story of Crick Crack Monkey.
The Life of Laetitia (1993), the story of a young Caribbean girl's first year at school away from home, was well received, one review calling it "a touching, beautifully written coming-of-age story set in Trinidad".
Hodge has also published various essays concerning life in the Caribbean and the life and works of Léon Damas, including a translation of Damas's collection of poetry, Pigments.
- Crick Crack, Monkey. Andre Deutsch, 1970; London: Heinemann, 1981; Paris: Karthala, 1982 (trans. Alice Asselos-Cherdieu).
- For the Life of Laetitia. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1993.
- "Beyond Negritude: The Love Poems", in Critical Perspectives on Léon Gontran Damas, ed. Keith Warner. Washington, DC: Three Continents, 1988. From her unpublished thesis, "The Writings of Léon Damas and Their Connection with the Négritude Movement in Literature", University of London, 1967.
- "The Folktales of Bernard Dadie", in Black Images: A Critical Quarterly on Black Arts and Culture' 3:3 (1974), pp. 57–63.
- "The Shadow of the Whip: A Comment on Male-Female Relations in the Caribbean", in Is Massa Day Dead? Black Moods in the Caribbean, ed. Orde Coombs. New York: Anchor Books, 1974, pp. 111–18.
- "Social Conscience or Exoticism? Two Novels from Guadalupe", in Revista Review Interamericana 4 (1974), pp. 391–401.
- "Novels on the French Caribbean Intellectual in France", in Revista Review Interamericana 6 (1976), pp. 211–31.
- "Young Women and the Development of Stable Family Life in the Caribbean", in Savacou 13 (Gemini 1977), pp. 39–44.
- "Challenges of the Struggle for Sovereignty: Changing the World versus Writing Stories", in Caribbean Women Writers: Essays from the First International Conference, ed. Selwyn R. Cudjoe. Wellesley: Calaloux, 1990, pp. 202–08.
- "The Language of Earl Lovelace", in Anthurium, Vol. 4, Issue 2, Fall 2006.
- Balutansky, Kathleen. "We are All Activists: An Interview with Merle Hodge", Callaloo 12:4 (Fall 1989), 651-62.
- Brown, Wayne. "Growing up in Colonial Trinidad." Sunday Guardian (Trinidad), 28 June 1970, pp. 6, 17.
- Cobham, Rhonda. "Revisioning Our Kumblas: Transforming Feminist and Nationalist Agendas in Three Caribbean Women's Texts", Callaloo 16:1 (Winter 1993), 44- 64.
- Ghosh, Tannistho, and Basu, Priyanka. "The Two Worlds of the Child: A study of the novels of three West Indian writers; Jamaica Kincaid, Merle Hodge, and George Lamming". June 2002. Retrieved 23 February 2012.
- Gikandi, Simon. "Narration in the Post-Colonial Moment: Merle Hodge's Crick Crack Monkey." Past the Last Post: Theorizing Post-Colonialism and Post-Modernism, eds. Ian Adam and Helen Tiffin. Hertfordshire: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1991, 13-22.
- Harvey, Elizabeth. Review of Crick Crack Monkey, in World Literature Written in English (April 1971), 87.
- Kemp, Yakini. "Woman and Womanchild: Bonding and Selfhood in Three West Indian Novels", in SAGE: A Scholarly Journal on Black Women, 2:1 (Spring 1985), 24-27.
- Lawrence, Leota S. "Three West Indian Heroines: An Analysis", in CLA Journal, 21 (December 1977), 238-50.
- Lawrence, Leota S. "Merle Hodge (1944- )", in Daryl Cumber Dance (ed.), Fifty Caribbean Writers: A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook, Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1986, pp. 224–228.
- Thomas, Ena V. "Crick Crack Monkey: A Picaresque Perspective", in Caribbean Women Writers: Essays from the First International Conference, ed. Selwyn Cudjoe. Wellesley: Calaloux, 1990, 209-14.
- Thorpe, Marjorie. "The Problem of Cultural Identification in Crick Crack Monkey", in Savacou, 13 (Gemini 1977), 31-38.
- Martin Japtok, "Two Postcolonial Childhoods: Merle Hodge's Crick Crack, Monkey and Simi Bedford's Yoruba Girl Dancing", Jouvert: Journal of Post-Colonial Studies, Volume 6, Special issue: Growing Up Elsewhere, Issues 1 - 2 (Fall 2001).
- "Merle Hodge, Trinidad, 1944", Writers of the Caribbean.
- Phillis Gershator, review of Merle Hodge, For the Life of Laetitia, The Caribbean Writer.
- Merle Hodge biography, English Department, Emory University.
|This biographical article relies on references to primary sources. (August 2007)|
- Works by or about Merle Hodge in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- Robin Brooks, "Teaching Merle Hodge’s Crick Crack, Monkey: A Lesson Plan", June 2010. Digital Library of the Caribbean.