On encountering Clara Iwasaki's Rethinking the Modern Chinese Canon: Refractions across the Transpacific, one first notices the striking boldness of the title. Yet after reading the book, one may feel the title appears almost too modest. Iwasaki's critical concept of refractive relations offers exciting possibilities for the study of cross-cultural literary or artistic traveling in any direction, though her stated aim is to increase attention to the multidirectional and multilingual movement of texts across the Transpacific. Using this concept of refractive relations, “which draws both from [Shu-mei] Shih's relational approach and [André] LeFevre's description of translation as a form of refraction,” Clara Iwasaki entirely dispenses with anxieties of adaptation and trueness to an original, instead examining the ways in which authors and texts achieve new meanings “when read with and against each other” (16, 17).

As waves pass from one medium to another, waves refract: they bend their path...

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