This scholarly work is one in a series entitled the `New Critical Idiom' and merits review as much for its individuality as for the clarifying importance to the field of literary theory made by this series as a whole. I will write this review assuming that you wouldn't go through the trouble of reading it unless you had an academic or otherwise theoretical interest in the subject.
Julie Sanders has, even by the already high standards of this series, taken a particularly well-structured approach to her topic. The first chapters take time to look at the main ideas and associated terminology, and the author's declared aim is to create a flexible jargon rather than "fixing or ossifying specific concepts." In the middle section, Sanders studies adaptive and appropriative practices in ancient, medieval and Shakespearean Renaissance traditions. The final chapters of the book are concerned with observing how these techniques have operated "within the parameters of an established canon" and served to reinforce it, "albeit in revised circumstances of understanding." Sanders explores power and resistance themes and manages, with impeccable correctness, to mention all pertinent academic movements.
Along the way, Sanders maps out how adaptation and appropriation, as specific sub-sets of Kristevan intertextuality, are techniques which serve to intertwine not only literary texts but also, significantly, literature with musicology and the fine arts. Sanders cites many sources which agree that comparisons between source texts and their hypertexts (appropriated or adapted forms) often reveal sometimes playful, sometimes oppositional and even subversive means of political expression. In this regard she makes excellent Said-like post-colonial analyses of several literary, stage and film works by contemporary authors such as Graham Swift, Peter Carey, Michael Cunningham, Baz Luhrmann, and Caryl Phillips.
Her writing style is accessible but sophisticated. Any use of literary jargon is explained efficiently in the text, although a glossary is also included at the back of the book (a standard feature of the series as a whole). A business-like tone combines with the author's fascination with her subject and vast repertoire of source readings to make this a well-paced read--a remarkable achievement considering that each book in this series is like a 200-page encyclopedia article on its respective subject.
Another excellent book on the topic of adaptation is Linda Hutcheon's A Theory of Adaptation, though Hutcheon's agenda includes not only theoretical analysis, but--almost more importantly--a general defense of the meaning and value of adaptation as a discreet aesthetic genre in the face of sometimes implied, sometimes explicit disapprobation. Although Sanders' work does emphasize the positive creative capacity of adaptive and appropriative practices, it is not a defense of them but rather a direct exploration of their links to political commentary, the controversies over ownership created by the current adaptation-dense cultural environment, and a definition of these genres in relationship to one another and in contrast to other intertextual structures and sub-structures.
Conjuring a less original if more clinical and useful version of Bloom's psychology of anxiety, Sanders notes in her Afterword that "nothing new, nothing original, be it in the domain of art, music, film, or literature, is possible anymore." Yet for anyone interested in studying the differences and similarities between works with borrowed material, palimpsestic properties or originality issues, her book contains a wealth of pertinent information, methodological tools, and perceptive observation.