Sometime in 2015 or 2016 I stumbled on an old, worn copy of Hamlet and Macbeth. It was annotated. Since I hadn't read Macbeth and it had been a while since I read Hamlet, on a lark, I decided to read it.

In the final act of Hamlet, when the Prince arrives back at Elsinore from his extended, disastrous, and fatal for Rosencrantz and Gildenstern, trip to England, he's challenged to a duel with Laertes. Horatio says

If your mind dislike any thing, obey it: I will forestall their repair hither, and say you are not fit.

To which Hamlet replies

Not a whit, we defy augury: there's a special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, 'tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come: the readiness is all: since no man has aught of what he leaves, what is't to leave betimes?

In the edition I was reading there was an annotation on the phrase "there's a special providence in the fall of a sparrow." which read, if I recall correctly, "cf. Matthew 10:29."

Me being me, of course I cracked open a Bible and found the passage:

Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.

I was stunned. I can't even say why, it's just that something about the elegance of the line, the sentiment expressed, and the intertextual play stunned me. It was such a subtle reference I wondered how often that sort of thing appears in text.

For a while I read Shakespeare, then I read a thick, annotated copy of the King James Bible and The Literary Guide to the Bible. Before I knew it every time I read a classic work I would by an Oxford World's Classics edition hoping for more illuminating insight into the intertextual play in literature. I spotted it all over, but one problem nagged me.

Each annotated copy of every book is different. They annotate different things, have different focuses, and often focus on arcane textual issues, like that this manuscript says x, the other says y. I began to wish for a good annotation resource, especially one that focuses on the intertextual play between books.

And so was born the idea for

Initially the idea was to focus on intertextual references, but halfway through development I realized it had much wider appeal: as a definitive, exhaustive, and collaborative platform for annotating all of literature.

Distinctions is the principal deployment, owned by us, of the software I call the Intertextual Canon Cloud.

Intertextual Canon Cloud 2 refers to the currently in-development rewrite of the ICC software. The first iteration failed, and was badly designed, so I am currently undertaking a complete, ground up rewrite.


This wiki will serve as the documentation resource for how the software. It is my hope that one day this software will be deployed as multiple instances focusing on different things: scientific journals, biblical exegesis, media criticism, creative writing workshops, the possibilities are fairly endless.