Silence is far more complex than we realize, argues Jane Brox, and it influences ideas of the self, soul, and society. Brox traces its place from Medieval European monasteries to the very public life of 20th century monk Thomas Merton, whose love for silence deepened even as he was urged to speak out against war. This fascinating history of ideas also explores the influence the monastic cell had on Philadelphia's Eastern State Penitentiary. Conceived of by one of the Founding Fathers, its overseers imagined redemption for criminals in imposed isolation, but they badly misapprehended silence's dangers. Brox also asks how we might navigate our own relationship with silence, for the transformation it has always promised, in our own lives.