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Sunka Simon

Professor of German, Film and Media Studies

Department Overview

Sunka Simon received her M.A. in German and American literature from the Universität Hamburg and her Ph.D. in German and Literary Theory from The Johns Hopkins University. She is the author of German Crime Dramas from Network TV to Netflix (Bloomsbury Press, 2023), Mail-Orders: The Fiction of Letters in Postmodern Culture (Suny Press, 2002), co-author of Globally Networked Teaching in the Humanities:Theories and Practices (Routledge Press, 2015) as well as scholarly articles on German literature, film, and popular culture. Simon holds a joint appointment in German and Film and Media Studies at Swarthmore College, where she teaches courses on German, European, and U.S. popular culture with a focus on Television Studies.

New Book

German Crime Dramas from Network Television to Netflix approaches German television crime dramas to uncover the intersections between the genre's media-specific network and post-network formats and how these negotiate with and contribute to concepts of the regional, national, and global. 

Part I concentrates on the ARD network's long-running flagship series Tatort (Crime Scene 1970-). Because the domestically produced crime drama succeeded in interacting with and competing against dominant U.S. formats during 3 different mediascapes, it offers strategic lessons for post-network television. Situating 9 Tatort episodes in their televisual moment within the Sunday evening flow over 38 years and 3 different German regions reveals how producers, writers, directors, critics, and audiences interacted not only with the cultural socio-political context, but also responded to the challenges aesthetically, narratively, and media-reflexively. 

Part II explores how post-2017 German crime dramas (Babylon Berlin, Dark, Perfume, and Dogs of Berlin) rework the genre's formal and narrative conventions for global circulation on Netflix. Each chapter concentrates on the dynamic interplay between time-shifted viewing, transmedia storytelling, genre hybridity, and how these interact with projections of cultural specificity and continue or depart from established network practices. The results offer crucial information and inspiration for producers and executives, for creative teams, program directors, and television scholars.


Book Link

Globally Networked Teaching in the Humanities: Theories and Practices (Routledge, 2015)

As colleges and universities in North America increasingly identify "internationalization" as a key component of the institution’s mission and strategic plans, faculty and administrators are charged with finding innovative and cost-effective approaches to meet those goals. This volume provides an overview and concrete examples of globally-networked learning environments across the humanities from the perspective of all of their stakeholders: teachers, instructional designers, administrators and students. By addressing logistical, technical, pedagogical and intercultural aspects of globally-networked teaching, this volume offers a unique perspective on this form of curricular innovation through internationalization. It speaks directly to the ways in which new technologies and pedagogies can promote humanities-based learning for the future and with it the broader essential skills of intercultural sensitivity, communication and collaboration, and critical thinking.


Mail-Orders: The Fiction of Letters in Postmodern Culture (SUNY Press, 2002)

Review excerpt - Richard Macksey, MLN 117.5 (2002): 1154-1155.

Sunka Simon "is a scholarly historian of epistolary narrative, but Mail-Orders escapes disciplinary boundaries and received genres to examine how profoundly recent changes in the technology of communication have transformed the social and cultural practices of letter-writing. She addresses her topic with a ready wit, an ample store of apt illustrations (from the 18th to the 21st centuries), and a sharp eye for recognizing relevant connections between the often hermetic discourses of cultural studies, literary studies, and film/media studies.  While the advent and structure of electronic mail has been discussed in web caucuses, newspapers, and conferences on hypertext and communication theory, its significance has not previously been considered fully in conjunction with epistolary scenarios in film, art, and literature. Addressing this gap, Mail-Orders explores the contemporary status of the epistolary form and its connections to feminist criticism, literary experiment, and various flavors of postmodernism."


"Epistolary Relays in Fatih Akin’s Auf der anderen Seite (The Edge of Heaven, 2007)"

Epistolary Entanglements in Film, Media and the Visual Arts. Eds. Teri Higgins and Catherine Fowler. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2023. 259-273.

This collection departs from the observation that online forms of communication—the email, blog, text message, tweet—are actually haunted by old epistolary forms: the letter and the diary. By examining the omnipresence of writing across a variety of media, the collection adds the category of Epistolary Screens to genres of self-expression, both literary (letters, diaries, auto-biographies) and screenic (romance dramas, intercultural cinema, essay films, artists’ videos and online media). The category Epistolary encapsulates an increasingly paradoxical relation between writing and the self: first, it describes selves that are written in graphic detail via letters, diaries, blogs, texts, emails and tweets; second, it acknowledges that absence complicates communication, bringing people together in an entangled rather than ordered way. The collection concerns itself with the changing visual/textual texture of screen media and examines what is at stake for our understanding of self-expression when it takes Epistolary forms.


Epistolary Entanglements in Film, Media and the Visual Arts Cover with a fountain pen and a drop of ink

PERCEPTICON - Lost in Translation Room: How do we read across cultural specificities, when translated, untranslated and untranslatable texts, sounds and images meet?

Museum meets Escape Room: Three Rooms - 20 Minute Group Challenges with Friends or Strangers

Lost in Translation Room

PERCEPTICON - Blair Witch Room: How do we convert a room full of miscellaneous objects into a narrative, and how do gender, class and race figure into free-form storytelling?

Design Team: Sunka Simon, Amy Kim and Kevin Medansky (Film and Media Studies), Laila Swanson, Mikhail Ahmed and Nadia Malaya (Theater)

Blair Witch Room

Transmedia Adaptations Projects

Taking our cue from adaptation theories (Linda Hutcheon et alii) and key case studies, students in the capstone course investigated what happens, when a text migrates from one medium to another, how medium specificity changes exhibition, reception and critical interaction practices.  For their final projects, each student pitched a transmedia adaptation project ranging from novel to television script or podcast, from comic to videogame, from radio to museum installation.

Student Final Projects

Television Class Projects

Sine 2015, every incarnation of FMST 025 Television Studies and FMST 038 Reality TV has produced an original television episode (a  pilot, a lost episode or a parody/remediation of an existing show). Red carpet premieres are held in early May. In 2015, the class created a Swarthmore version of the MTV show The Real World. In 2016, students opted to update Bravo's Queer Eye for the Straight Guy (2003-2007). In 2018, the pilot episode was modeled after romance-themed reality television. In 2023, a mockumentary of life on our college campus became real-er through social media tags that made it onto the Instagram of the admissions office . Currently, a murder mystery is in production.


four images of past Television Studies classes at the premiere of their class television episodes

First Globally Networked Class at Swarthmore (2012)

This class, co-developed and executed with a Suny COIL grant by Profs. Sunka Simon (German/FMST), Carina Yervasi (French/FMST) and Mikelle Antoine (African History at Ashesi), was taught synchronously via Skype between Swarthmore College in PA (USA) and Ashesi University in Akkra (Ghana) for two hours each week. The two classes met asynchronously for another two hours and collaborated in shared group assignments via email and discussion forums on Moodle. 

Based on the class, Simon and Yervasi co-authored “Re-Envisioning Diasporas in the Globally Connected Classroom.” Globally Networked Teaching in the Humanities: Theories and Practices.  Eds. Alexandra Schultheis-Moore and Sunka Simon. London/NY:  Routledge Press, 2015. 136-155.


Discussion between Ashesi students (pictured) and Swarthmore students (on screen)

Profs. Simon and Yervasi with students at Swarthmore (USA)

Prof. Antoine with students at Ashesi (Ghana)