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In the book What Do Pictures Want?: The Lives and Loves of Images, page 48, there is a paragraph that using the word "figure" that I don't understand:

What pictures want, then, is not to be interpreted, decoded, worshipped, smashed, exposed, or demystified by their beholders, or to enthrall their beholders. They may not even want to be granted subjectivity or personhood by well-meaning commentators who think that humanness is the greatest compliment they could pay to pictures. The desires of pictures may be inhuman or nonhuman, better modeled by figures of animals, machines, or cyborgs, or by even more basic images-what Erasmus Darwin called "the loves of plants." What pictures want in the last instance, then, is simply to be asked what they want, with the understanding that the answer may well be, nothing at all.

I've looked it up but it doesn't have any meaning that I'm not aware of. What does it mean here?

Figure definition and meaning | Collins English Dictionary

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I guess the fourth and fifth definition come closest:

You refer to someone that you can see as a figure when you cannot see them clearly or when you are describing them.

In art, a figure is a person in a drawing or a painting, or a statue of a person

The dictionary entry also mentions 'form', 'shape' as synonyms which might be applicable in this usage.

I agree the sentence is confusing, but so is the entire topic ... Perhaps this loose rephrasing makes more sense?

The desires of pictures may be inhuman or nonhuman, better described as animals, machines, or cyborgs, or by even more basic images-what Erasmus Darwin called "the loves of plants."

| improve this answer | |
  • Why not the fifth - a person in a drawing? – Kate Bunting Jun 27 at 11:05
  • @KateBunting o_O I didn't see there were more than four entries because of the ridiculous amount of space between entry four and five: i.stack.imgur.com/CgckK.png – Glorfindel Jun 27 at 11:18
  • that's the ad. Probably you have adblocker – Ooker Jun 28 at 7:56
  • @Ooker that must be the cause. Thanks! – Glorfindel Jun 28 at 7:58

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