• This paper puts forward a theory of literary writing as a practice of ideological transformation. The example analyzed is the representation of the sexes in George Eliot’s novel ‘The Mill on the Floss’, a representation which is intertextually mediated, metafictional, and transformative, rather than merely “realistic” or spontaneous. This view of writing as a practice of material production in the intertextual field is theorized on the basis of V. N. Voloshinov’s (or M. M. Bakhtin’s) materialist linguistics, and of Peirce’s semiotics. The methodological kinship between these researchers is asserted (as it was ignored in the 1980s, when this paper was written).