It is a well documented and theorized paradox that avant-garde literature, in its craving for novelty and change, necessarily reproduces the very same traditional values and schemes it seeks to transgress. In literature, there is no creation ex nihilo: in order not to be rejected, new ways of writing have to be embedded in tropes, figures, themes, codes and conventions familiar to the public. This paradox has often given rise to sceptical conclusions on the death of avant-garde, the banalization of art or the dissolution of values in a postmodern magma of everything goes. This paper approaches the situation from a different angle. Avant-garde literature, with its rhetoric of trangression, revolt and negation expressed in manifestoes as well as in literary works, may also be considered a redistribution, a re-categorization or a re-hierarchization of the literary field. Seen from this angle, the unavoidable link of dependence between tradition and avant-garde does not deny the latter the possibility of innovation and change. Instead, it offers the possibility to locate innovation in the very performance of reproduction of texts and signs in novel forms in avant-garde and experimental works of art. It also demands a close focus on the material aspects of literature, in a Rossi-Landian approach that considers the objectual as well as the ideal aspects of signs that are both present in linguistic work. Examples from contemporary European literature will be discussed in order to illustrate and develop the theoretical reflections further.