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Annual Literary Court Case

Updated: Mar 27, 2021

The Matric Literary Court Case was an annual event at St Dominic’s School from 1993- 2020 although I first started experimenting with this process in the 1990 at Words worth High School.

I have always incorporated educational events into my way of teaching. I believe that having a range of approaches helps to ensure a rich educational experience for each student. The Matric Literary Afternoon was a particularly exciting and dynamic annual event which some of the students considered a “rite of passage”(The phrase was coined by Mufaro Dangwa andTyra Ann Muraour- winning attorneys in their year.). As I only taught Matrics, I decided to make it a special event that would incorporate every student in Grade 12. I began the Matric Literary afternoon at St Dominic’s in 1993: it encouraged students to think out of the box and to create presentations that would make use of a range of “spaces”, from video material on the shores of Homestead lake in Benoni to represent the homes in The Great Gatsby, to Macbeth’s crown falling down the stone stair case of the old Abbey at the school in order to engage with their literature in different ways and they were encouraged to use creative initiative as long as their presentations focused closely on the text.

In 1994, however, the Literary Afternoon evolved into a literary court case based on the students’ set works. In this setting, characters and plotlines could be discussed and debated as each student had their own role to play, be it as judges, bailiffs or witnesses, amongst other possibilities. The first court case was based on Shakespeare’s Macbeth. The students became so involved in the various roles they were playing that the court adjourned for three afternoons before a verdict was finally reached. One of the student’s playing an attorney, Vicky Papanikolaou, became so inspired as she argued her case dressed in her high heels, smart outfit and academic gown that, on the last day, she whipped open her smart briefcase to produce irrefutable evidence: Lady Macbeth’s diary and so Macbeth,(Dina Belluigi) sitting on death row, heaved a sigh of relief. Vicky never lost her enthusiasm and went on to study law at University. The most exciting and significant thing about the court case was that students learned to engage deeply with the texts, to think, to debate, to argue, to justify and that they had done so in a way that encouraged a creative and out of the box approach which was likely to remain with them forever and to shape their sense of identity and their attitude to education.

One of the students in more recent years said, “You don’t understand Mrs. Fanucchi, we have been looking forward to this for five years!” Sparks certainly flew in the heated debates on that day as students abandoned their schoolgirl personas in order to create and step into a virtual world, to inhabit another skin, as it were, to glimpse visions of possibility, to experiment with analysis and explore the characters of literary works in a changing array of settings and roles. Nothing was ever rehearsed. The afternoon took on a creative life of its own. Anything could happen on the day; occasionally surprise witnesses took to the stand, which revealed the novel in a completely different light. One student felt that she only fully understood the work after the court case and it was the talk of the group in the weeks building up to the event and thereafter. Written by Patrizia Fanucchi

See if you can guess which texts are represented here below. These photos take us through a brief representation of some of texts that have been brought to life by students during the Literary Court-cases.

Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

Tess confiding in a friend

Passage to India- EM Forster

Sons and Lovers by DH Lawrence

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall - Anne Bronte

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte

The Scarlet Letter- Nathaniel Hawthorne

In the Courtroom.

The Witnesses- Washington Square

The attorneys approaching the bench of judges.

The Dream House by Craig higginson

The victory cake - the aftermath.

Teachers, judges and attorneys.

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