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Todd CronanProfessor


  • Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley, 2005

Research Interests

My work centers around four areas of interest: artistic autonomy, chance, intentionality and class politics. These issues are explored in a range of historical moments, geographical areas, and media, from French painting, to American photography, to mid-century architecture and film. For my first book—on Henri Matisse, Henri Bergson and Paul Valéry (Univ. of Minnesota Press, 2014)—the focus was on a set of pictorial, literary and philosophical dynamics in French culture from the 1890s through the 1940s. But as I also argue, those dynamics provide a framework for understanding contemporary debates about the nature of authorship, representation and meaning. Writing in opposition to a range of efforts to bypass meaning, interpretation, and intention, in favor of a putatively more direct affective connection with a work or the equal and opposite skeptical denial of connection, I show how the poles of affectivity and skepticism are designed to undermine our capacity to disagree about the world.

For my next two books I look at different media, locations, and periods, but all under an ongoing set of shared concerns. For Red Aesthetics, I address the highly politicized work of Alexander Rodchenko (photography), Bertolt Brecht (theater), and Sergei Eisenstein (film) between the wars. The aim here is understand the nature of a political art that falls under the terms of what Brecht calls a "correct picture of the world" (assuming that most political critiques in the humanities offer an “incorrect” one). Chapters include an analysis of Rodchenko's photo-series as political allegory; Brecht's account of political and artistic abstraction; Brecht's analysis of how race replaced class (largely at the hands of the Frankfurt School) during World War II; and Eisenstein's vision of artistic automatism as a vision of political action.

Another book, Nothing Permanent: Modern Architecture in California (University of Minnesota Press, 2023) explores the work of Richard Neutra and the Office of Charles and Ray Eames. Looking again at the work and ideas of the pioneering émigré architects R. M. Schindler and Neutra, as well as later expressions of California Modern in the work of the Eameses and the architects of the Case Study Houses Program (especially Craig Ellwood and Raphael Soriano), I recover the debates that define the period as well as drawing new connections and distinctions within a seemingly homogenous group of mid-century architects. At stake is the invention of an influential and enduring vision of architectural materialism (largely at the hands of the Bauhaus) that grants “agency” to materials, a vision resisted by Schindler and the Eameses who defined their work as expressive of their ideas and intentions. A conclusion addresses the influential writings of Reyner Banham, who is here described as the inventor of a form of neoliberal aesthetics.

Other current projects include Information Machines: A Guide to the Films of Charles and Ray Eames (SUNY Press, 2023); a luxury edition of Minor White's extraordinary photographic daybooks, the Memorable Fancies (Yale University Press, 2023); a book length study of the films of Billy Wilder (co-written with Charles Palermo); and an account of racial essentialism that emerges (largely in sociology and anthropology in the 1950s and 60s) at the moment when race was redescribed as culture and ethnicity. Against the rise of race reductivism in sociology and anthropology, I examine the work of two Caribbean-born scholars of race, Oliver Cromwell Cox and Frantz Fanon.

I am a member of the board of the Friends of the Schindler House. I am a founder and editor-in-chief of published through Emory. I advise topics on all aspects of modernism.

Selected Publications


cronan_nothing permanent

Nothing Permanent: Modern Architecture in California (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2023)

Red Aesthetics Book Cover

Red Aesthetics: Rodchenko, Brecht, Eisenstein (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2021)


Against Affective Formalism - Todd Cronan

Against Affective Formalism: Matisse, Bergson, Modernism (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2013)

  • Interview: Todd Cronan by Jeremy Gilbert-RolfeBOMB Magazine (May 5, 2015)
  • Tank Forum with responses by Harry Cooper, Lisa Florman, Karla Oeler, Blake Stimson, Michael W. Clune, (Summer 2015)
  • Review in Art History by Charlotte de Mille
  • Review in Art Journal by Matthew Jackson and Our Literal Speed
  • Review in Theory & Event by Michelle Menzies (2015)
  • Review in the Los Angeles Review of Books by Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe (October 2014)
  • Review in The Journal of European Studies by Robert Lethbridge (December 2014)
  • Review in The Burlington Magazine by Lee Hallmann (April 2015)
  • Review in sehepunkte by Hanni Geiger (August 2017)
  • Review in affectsphere by Brooke Clark (May 12, 2016)
  • Discussion in Pop Theory, "Affect theory and its disaffections," by Clive Barnett (January 2, 2018)


"The Santa Barbara Museum's Hypocritical Attack on Art," The Chronicle of Higher Education (Feb. 8, 2024)

"'I Don't Do What Happens': Hugh Kenner's Theory of Action," 42 (April 11, 2023)

"There's No Alternative to Historicism (except when you do politics)," Brooklyn Rail (October 2023)

"Fair Play Blames 'Male Fragility' for High Finance's Evils," Jacobin (October 19, 2023)

"Can a White Curator Do Justice to African Art?" (with Charles Palermo), The Nation (August 11, 2023)

Zadie Smith Finds Her Way to Class,”The Los Angeles Review of Books (June 20, 2022)

“Antidiscrimination and the End of Marxism: The Roots of Contemporary Politics in Cold War Theory and Culture,” in The Conformist Rebellion: Marxist Critiques of the Contemporary Left, eds. Elena Louisa Lange & Joshua Pickett-Depaolis (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2022), 3-24

Endlessness: A Genealogy,” PLAT 10.0, Rice School of Architecture (2021): 29-43

“‘A last fine line against the horizon’: Van Gogh at the Edge,” in Through Vincent's Eyes: Van Gogh and His Sources, ed. Eik Kahng (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2021), 61-91

The Secrets of the Material: Contingency and Normativity in Adolf Loos,”Umění/Art 68, no. 3 (2020): 271-77 (Click here for the PDF)

“Getting Over the Bauhaus,” Philosophical Salon (Jan. 11, 2021)

Oliver Cromwell Cox and the Capitalist Sources of Racism,” Jacobin (Sept. 9, 2020)

Take It Down!: Symbolic Politics Is Just That” (with Charles Palermo), Common Dreams (July 6, 2020)

"Le Corbusier, Matisse, and the Meaning of Conceptual Art," 31 (2020)

“Ambiguity, Accident, Audience: Minor White’s photographic theory,” in The Routledge Companion to Photography Theory, eds. Mark Durden and Jane Torme (London: Routledge, 2019), 52-68.
(Click here for the PDF)

More Neoliberal Aesthetics: Pamela M. Lee's September 11, 1973” (with Charles Palermo), 23 (Winter 2018)

"Class into Race: Brecht and the Problem of State Capitalism," Critical Inquiry 44, no. 1 (Autumn 2017): 54-79 (Click here for PDF)

"Between Culture and Biology: Schindler and Neutra at the Limits of Architecture," in Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture, eds. Alison Clarke and Elana Shapira (London: Bloomsbury, 2017), 203-220

"Rodchenko's Photographic Communism," Photography and Failure: One Medium's Entanglement with Flops, Underdogs and Disappointments, ed. Kris Belden-Adams (London: Bloomsbury, 2017), 27-43

"Why Architecture Matters as Art as Never Before: Le Corbusier, Tony Smith and the Problem of Use," 21 (Summer 2017)

"Orthodoxy" (with Charles Palermo), World Picture 12 (2017)

"Does the Left Need Spinoza?," Politics, Religion & Ideology 17:1 (Jan. 2016): 90-92. Reply to Knox Peden.

"Killing "Max Ernst," in Nothing but the Clouds Unchanged: Artists in World War I (Los Angeles, Getty Research Institute, 2014), 128-137
(Click here for the PDF)

Response to Kaja Silverman's The Miracle of Analogy, (Spring 2014)

"The Political Ontology of Unemployment: Why No One Need 10 (Fall 2013)

"'Seeing Differently' and 'Seeing Correctly': Bertolt Brecht For and Against Abstraction," Brecht Yearbook, vol. 37, ed. Theodore Rippey (Dec. 2013): 96-120

"Art and Political Consequence: Brecht and the Problem of Affect," Special issue on Bertolt Brecht, 10 (Fall 2013)

"On Previsualization," co-written with James Welling, in See the Light: Photography, Perception, Cognition, ed. Britt Salvesen (Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2013), 210-214
(Click here for the PDF)

  • Review by Diarmuid Costello in Critical Inquiry

"Photography: Chance," entry, Encyclopedia of Aesthetics, new edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 147-151

"Paul Valéry," entry, Encyclopedia of Aesthetics, new edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 215-217

"'Danger in the Smallest Dose': Richard Neutra's Design Theory," Design and Culture 3:2 (July 2011): 165-191

"Money is in the Eye of the Beholder," editorial, (Summer 2011)

"Paul Valéry's Blood Meridian, Or How the Reader became a Writer," 1 (February 2011)

"Merleau-Ponty, Santayana and the Paradoxes of Animal Faith," British Journal for the History of Philosophy 18:3 (2010): 487-506

"Georg Simmel's Timeless Impressionism," New German Critique 106 (2009): 83-101
(Click here for the PDF)

"'Primordial Automatism': George Santayana's Later Aesthetics," Overheard in Seville 25 (2007): 20-27

"Looking Into Surfaces," in Georg Simmel in Translation, ed. David D. Kim (Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2006), 229-261

Translation and Introduction to Max Horkheimer, "Schopenhauer and Society," qui parle 15:1 (2004): 81-96


Fanon Can’t Save You Now,” review of Frantz Fanon, The Political Writings, Los Angeles Review of Books (March 22, 2021)

Review of Kinaesthetic Knowing: Aesthetics, Epistemology, Modern Design, by Zeynep Çelik AlexanderThe Art Bulletin 101: 4 (2019): 154-157

"Wölfflin and the Promise of Anonymity," review of Principles of Art History: The Problem of the Development of Style in Early Modern Art, 100th Anniversary edition, CAA Reviews (May 11, 2018)

One Way Cul-de-Sac: Benjamin Buchloh's Art History,” review of Formalism and HistoricityArt History 41:2 (April 2018): 392-94

Architects in the Hands of an Angry God: Charles and Ray Eames on Things,” review of An Eames Anthology, ed. Daniel Ostroff, Los Angeles Review of Books (May 25, 2016)

"Operation Adorno," review of The Challenge of Surrealism The Correspondence of Theodor W. Adorno and Elisabeth LenkRadical Philosophy 194 (Nov/Dec 2015): 50-52

War and Commas,” review of Hanns Eisler in Conversation with Hans Bunge, Brecht, Music and Culture, Radical Philosophy 189 (Jan./Feb. 2015): 52-55

"The Meaning of Pain: Paul Scheerbart's Lesabéndio," Radical Philosophy 185 (May/June 2014): 64-65

"Photography at the End of Modernism," review of Aperture Magazine Anthology-The Minor White Years, 1952-1976History of Photography (spring 2014): 204-206 
(Click here for the PDF)

"Neoliberal Art History," review of David Joselit, After ArtRadical Philosophy 180 (July/Aug. 2013): 50-53

"Literally Conceptual," review of Lisa Siraganian, Modernism's Other WorkRadical Philosophy 177 (Jan./Feb. 2013): 51-54

"The Theater of Censored Poverty," Responses and reply to Cronan, "You are all proletarians," (Fall 2012)

"You are all proletarians," Review of Adorno and Horkheimer, Towards a New Manifesto, Radical Philosophy 174 (July/August 2012), pp. 31-33

"Radically Private and Pretty Uncoded," Review of Affect Theory ReaderRadical Philosophy 172 (March/April 2012), pp. 51-53

"Mysterious Exchange: On Susan Sidlauskas's Cézanne's Other: The Portraits of Hortense," 1 (February 2011)

Review Essay of Michael Fried's Menzel's Realism: Art and Embodiment in 19th Century Berlin, Zeitschrift fur Kunstgeschichte 4 (2006): 578-92

Clement Greenberg's Late Writingsqui parle 14:2 (2004): 205-12

"Shaken Realism," Review Essay of Michael Fried, Menzel's Realism, qui parle 14:1 (2003): 123-58