This introductory essay deals with the origins of textual agency and inertia. Texts predominantly work as indexes, icons, or symbols, according to Peirce’s typology of signs. These three types usually exert agency to an increasing extent. The essay seeks to determine the origin of this gradient in the dialectics between motivation and arbitrariness. The more a text is received as motivated, the likelier it is that it might exert a strong agency. This hypothesis leads also to an articulation of the rhetorics of motivation or de-motivation through which communities of interpreters can promote or demote the agentive force of a certain text.