Miriam Hansen's studies of both American silent film and Frankfurt School film theory drew on the critique of Jürgen Habermas's concept of the public sphere developed by Oskar Negt and Alexander Kluge. Expanding it beyond the bourgeoisie and stressing the importance of experience as well as discourse, Negt and Kluge attempted to reverse Habermas's pessimistic appraisal of the fate of the public sphere in the twentieth century. Challenging the too rapid dismissal of Habermas's stress on the communicatively rational function of the public sphere, this article questions the reliance on a “disclosive” theory of experience that may lack a critical edge.

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