College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences > Academics > American Studies > Faculty > Allison McCracken

Allison McCracken

  • Associate Professor and Director
  • ​​​​​

  • American Studies
  • Faculty
  • 773.325.7194
  • by appointment
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Allison McCracken received her PhD in American Studies from The University of Iowa, with a focus in media studies and twentieth century U.S. cultural history. She is the author of the book Real Men Don't Sing: Crooning in American Culture (Duke University Press, 2015), which has received several awards, including the Best First Book Award from the Society for Cinema and Media Studies, the Irving Lowens Book Award from the Society for American Music, the Woody Guthrie Prize from the International Association for the Study of Popular Music-United States (IASPM-US), and the Philip Brett Award from the American Musicological Society's LGBT Study Group. The book was also named one of 2016's "Great Reads" by NPR's Book Concierge and a Choice Academic Title of 2015. Most recently, she is the co-editor of the collection a tumblr book: platform and cultures (Michigan University Press, 2020), which is available Open Access, free to the public. McCracken currently teaches courses in the history of American popular culture and media, social media, gender and sexuality, LGBTQA/sex U.S. history, and American Studies methods. 

Selected Publications

Book (single-author)

Real Men Don't Sing: Crooning in American Culture, Durham: Duke University Press, 2015

Description: Real Men Don't Sing: Crooning in American Culture. The crooner Rudy Vallée's soft, intimate, and sensual vocal delivery simultaneously captivated millions of adoring fans and drew harsh criticism from those threatened by his sensitive masculinity. Although Vallée and other crooners reflected the gender fluidity of late-1920s popular culture, their challenge to the Depression era's more conservative masculine norms led cultural authorities to stigmatize them as gender and sexual deviants. In Real Men Don't Sing, Allison McCracken outlines crooning's history from its origins in minstrelsy through its development as the microphone sound most associated with white recording artists, band singers, and radio stars. She charts early crooners' rise and fall between 1925 and 1934, contrasting Rudy Vallée with Bing Crosby to demonstrate how attempts to contain crooners created and dictated standards of white masculinity for male singers. Unlike Vallée, Crosby survived the crooner backlash by adapting his voice and persona to adhere to white middle-class masculine norms. The effects of these norms are felt to this day, as critics continue to question the masculinity of youthful, romantic white male singers. Crooners, McCracken shows, not only were the first pop stars: their short-lived yet massive popularity fundamentally changed American culture.

Edited Collection

a tumblr book: platform and cultures, eds. Allison McCracken, Alexander Cho, Louisa Stein and Indira Neill Hoch. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2020. 

Description: This book takes an extensive look at the many different types of users and cultures that comprise the popular social media platform Tumblr. Though it does not receive nearly as much attention as other social media such as Twitter or Facebook, Tumblr and its users have been hugely influential in creating and shifting popular culture, especially progressive youth culture, with The New York Times referring to 2014 as the dawning of "the age of Tumblr activism." This volume contains essays, interviews and artwork by a range of Tumblr users, including fans, activists, industry professionals, scholars, and artists, and it spans many different topics: fandom; platform structure and design; aesthetics; activism; BIPOC and LGBTQA user experiences and community supportqueer/gender variant identity formation and self-creation; chronic pain and mental health visibilities; and social media privacy and ethics. An entire generation of young people now impacting mass culture and politics came of age on Tumblr, and this volume is an indispensable guide to the uniqueness of the platform as a social networking site and cultural forum.  

Articles and Book Chapters

"'There's a Rainbow on the River': The Affordances of Boy Soprano Bobby Breen in 1930s Hollywood," in The Oxford Handbook of Queer Cinema, eds. Ronald Gregg and Amy Villarejo. New York: Oxford University Press (in press, 2021)

"The Politics of the Voice: What NBC's Reality Singing Contest Tells Us About Contemporary Popular Music Culture," Journal of Popular Music Studies, 30, No. 3 (September 2018): 3-16.

“A History of Fandom in Broadcasting.” Companion to the History of American Broadcasting. (Companions in Cultural Studies series). Ed. Aniko Bodroghkozy. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2018.

"Tumblr Youth Subcultures and Media Engagement." Theme section in Focus: "Youth and Media," eds. Timothy Shary and Louisa Stein, Cinema Journal 57 n.1 (Fall 2017): 151-161 

“At Stake: Angel’s Body, Fantasy Masculinity and Queer Desire in Teen Television.” Undead TV: Essays on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Eds. Lisa Parks and Elana Levine. Durham: Duke University Press, 2007

“The Audience and the Internet”. The Television History Book. Eds. Michele Hilmes and Jason Jacobs. New York and London: British Film Institute, 2004

“Real Men Don’t Sing Ballads: The Radio Crooner in Hollywood 1929 - 1933.” Soundtrack Available: Cinema and Popular Song. Eds. Pamela Robertson Wojcik and Arthur Knight. Durham: Duke University Press, 2001

“Scary Women and Scarred Men: Suspense, Gender Trouble, and Postwar Change (1942-1950).” The Radio Reader: Essays in the Cultural History of U.S. Radio Broadcasting. Eds. Michele Hilmes and Jason Loviglio. New York: Routledge, 2001

“Study of a Mad Housewife: Psychiatric Discourse, the Suburban Home, and the Case of Gracie Allen.” Small Screens, Big Ideas: Television in the 1950s. Ed. Janet Thumim. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2001

“'God’s Gift to Us Girls': Crooning, Gender, and the Re-Creation of American Popular Song, 1928-1933.” American Music 17 (Winter 1999): 365-395

Selected Online Publications

Interviewee, Audio Documentary Up Close and Personal, BBC 4: aired and posted online Sept 17, 2016. Long version broadcast on BBC World Service, May 6 and 7, 2017.

Interviewed by International Association of the Study of Popular Music about my book, Real Men Don’t Sing, by Victor Szabo; posted online: April 17, 2016

“Sinatra the Crooner: 100th Anniversary,” Duke University Website, December 11, 2015

Featured book excerpt from Real Men Don’t Sing,, September 24, 2015

Organizer and Editor, “Hannibal Week,” In Medias Res, on line scholarly site, September 21-25, 2015

"Long Live Abigail Hobbs!": The Significance of Hannibal's Deviant 'Daughter': Antenna, on-line Media Journal of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, August 26, 2015

"Branding Hannibal: When Quality TV Viewers and Social Media Fans Converge," Antenna, on-line Media Journal of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, August 24, 2015

Recent Reviews

By Any Media Necessary: The New Youth Activism. eds. Henry Jenkins, et al. New York: New York University Press, 2016. Transformative Works and Cultures. June 2017.

Girls Will Be Boys: Cross-Dressed Women, Lesbians, and American Cinema. Laura Horak. New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 2016. Journal of American History

Fic: Why Fanfiction is Taking Over the World. Anne Jamison. New York: BenBella Books 2013. Cinema Journal (Volume 54, Number 3), Spring 2015