LIBRARY - Reference(s)

F. M. Alexander, the Use of the Self, and a 1932 Book Review + Discussion in the Yorkshire Post: A Failure to Impact Medical Science

AT Focus: 
Alexander Technique
Vol./ Issue/Edition: 
4/10
2015
October
Page position: 
26-43
Language: 
English
Notes and abstracts: 

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Staring's article deals with a 1932 review of The Use of the Self [UoS] in the Yorkshire Post, which prompted a response from Alexander in a letter that has not previously been republished.

Staring sets the publication of UoS in the context of Alexander's life at that time, adding both illuminating and critical comments about the famous chapter entitled Evolution of a Technique: Staring identifies a number of related ideas in the works of other contemporary authors.

The core of Staring's article however is the exchange between the reviewer (Charles Davy) and Alexander, and particularly the discussion of the concept of primary control and its relation to the work of Rudolf Magnus.Alexander treat's Davy's lack of acknowledgement of the centrality of the concept of primary control, purportedly underpinned by Magnus's work, as being the most serious deficiency in Davy's review.  Alexander thereby puts "primary control" at the centre of his thinking in 1932.

Staring is highly critical of the supposed relationship between Magnus's work and Alexander's work and the "feverish" attempt by Alexander's supporters to establish the link between the two. He concludes by claiming that Alexander's failure to "negotiate his phraseology and the meaning and definition of his neologisms" - in other words to enter into a genuine dialogue with mainstream science - is the essential cause of Alexander's failure to revolutionize medical science. This can be regarded as a back-handed compliment by Staring, one which goes some way to offsetting Staring's sarcastically dismissive, and by now predictable, impatience with the intellectual standards displayed by Alexander and some of his supporters.

We can only be grateful to Staring, not for the first time, for uncovering some really important Alexander material and providing an incisive, if combative, commentary on its significance.

[David Gibbens, 22Mar2016]

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