About Sophia Rosenfeld
Sophia Rosenfeld (CBA ’20) is Walter H. Annenberg Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania, where she teaches the intellectual, cultural, and political history of the modern West. She is the author of three books — A Revolution in Language: The Problem of Signs in Late Eighteenth-Century France (2001), Common Sense: A Political History (2011), and, most recently, Democracy and Truth: A Short History (2019) — as well as numerous articles both in scholarly journals and in the mainstream press, including The Nation. She is currently co-editing a six volume series called A Cultural History of Ideas from Antiquity to the Present, as well as writing a history of choice-making in which the history of dance will play a central role. She has previously been Professor of History at both the University of Virginia and Yale University and has held fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton, among others.
The Choices We Make: The Roots of Modern Freedom
For her CBA Fellowship, Rosenfeld will be working on a critical piece of her current book project on the history of choice-making as the defining experience of freedom in the modern world. The piece is an investigation of how social dancing–and particularly waltzing and other “couple dances” of 19th-century Europe in which picking partners was not just an important prelude to the main activity but often central to the action as a whole—broke free of theatrical dance (including ballet) and was used to navigate changes in the rules governing the formation of couples and ultimately marriage (sometimes called “The Choice”) in real life. This project is also intended to illuminate the value of the study of the history of ballet and dance to our understanding of history more broadly.