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Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual

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Alexander Technique
196 x 137 mm.
Mouritz Bibliography
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First edition. First published September 1923. Reprinted November 1923, November 1924, August 1927, and June 1932.


The shortened title of Alexander’s book—both in title and in McGowan’s foreword—is indicative of this abridgement of Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual. Modern readers are not in the practice of reading either long sentences or long arguments and McGowan has shortened both.

A couple of statistical examples reveal the amount: the sub-chapter in Part 1, “Fundamental Defect in our Plan of Civilization” contains 2,145 words in the original as against 1,538 words in McGowan’s abridgment: a reduction of 28%. Part 4, “Illustration” contains 5,339 words in the original and 3,905 words in the abridgment: a reduction of 27%. On the whole, however, Part 1 (“Sensory Appreciation in its Relation to Man’s Evolutionary Development”) has been more extensively shortened.

McGowan writes that he has kept his editing to a minimum; in particular he has replaced “orders” with “directions” (are the two interchangeable?) and “means-whereby” with “means.” “Political correctness” has been observed in the editing: “man” has been changed to “human”, “he” is frequently changed to “he or she” or just made neutral by a word like “teacher”, “pupil” or “the individual”.
McGowan’s abridgement is sensitive and discerning. In the instructions for hands on the back of a chair the direction to “order the neck to relax” (p. 124) is changed to “not to stiffen the neck” (p. 117). Alexander explains in the following paragraph the preventative aspect of the order “neck to relax”, and it is fair to regard them as being synonymous in this context.

Of course any editing is influenced by the editor’s understanding of the Technique and this is no exception: for example, where Alexander writes of the opportunity for the teacher “to secure . . . for the pupil certain experiences” (p. 124 (a)), McGowan writes of the opportunity for the teacher “to pass on. . . to the pupil certain experiences,” (p. 117). To “pass on” or to “secure for” are different things, but such differences are irrelevant to almost anyone else but teachers. A similar example is to be found when Alexander writes that the teacher “with his hands will command for him [the pupil] the actual performance of the movement” (p. 126) which McGowan has edited to “with his hands will do the actual movement for the pupil,” (p. 118–19).

It is important, however, for teachers to know that Alexander wrote “to pull gently with the arms” (p. 130, my italics) – McGowan omits “gently” (p. 122) – and that the fingers are kept “straight from their first joint of the fingers to their tips” (p. 128 in the original, my italics; italicised words omitted by McGowan). Details like these, however, will not detract from an understanding of the principles and procedures described by Alexander. Leaving aside the question of whether an abridgement is needed, I have no doubt that this is the best possible abridgement one could ask for.

(a) For references to a complete CCC is here used the STAT Books edition, London, 1997.

© Jean M. O. Fischer. Reproduced with permission.

This edition © Mouritz 2005-2014. All rights reserved.