Henry Peach Robinson's "Fading Away": a learning resource for narrative of illness


  • Tyson Tetoff, Mr. Xavier University School of Medicine
  • Gabriel Andrade, Dr Xavier University School of Medicine
  • Arun Kumar Dubey, Prof Dr Xavier University School of Medicine
  • Malpe Surekha Bhat, Prof Dr Xavier University School of Medicine


Art history, Bereavement, End of life, Kubler-Ross, Narrative medicine, Medical humanities, Medicine in the arts


"Fading Away", the combination photograph by Henry Peach Robinson, has been critically reviewed by many authors in the past. This article attempts to interpret it using an imaginative process. The objective is to examine how Fading Away can be used as a learning resource for a 'Narrative of illness' session in a medical humanities class in undergraduate medical education. The authors demonstrate that the combination photograph could be used to explain how the coping concept is different for a dying patient. Depressive cognition, or in other words - coping in isolation - could lead to a strategy of visual rumination that can influence the dying patient to adopt a self-reflective style in dealing with death. It could be argued that this reasoning neatly corresponds with Kubler-Ross's well-known model of the five stages of grief that most patients go through upon facing death - denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. It explains how dying patients can adopt a strategy and style of temporal travel of mind to relive the past and "prelive" the future that they will never get to see.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biographies

Tyson Tetoff, Mr., Xavier University School of Medicine

Medical Student

Gabriel Andrade, Dr, Xavier University School of Medicine

Faculty in Behavioural Science

Arun Kumar Dubey, Prof Dr, Xavier University School of Medicine

Professor in Pharmacology and CAO

Malpe Surekha Bhat, Prof Dr, Xavier University School of Medicine

Coordinator, Medical humanities and Professor in Biochemistry and Genetics


1. Ducati RG, Ruffino-Netto A, Basso LA, Santos DS. The resumption of consumption: a review on tuberculosis. Mem Inst Oswaldo Cruz. 2006;101(7):697-714. doi:10.1590/s0074-02762006000700001

2. Encyclopædia Britannica. Henry Peach Robinson. 2013 October 23 [cited 2018 Sep 25]. Available from: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Henry-Peach-Robinson#ref12957

3. Schell S. The Office of the Dead in England: image and music in the Book of Hours and related texts, c.1250 – c1500 [Thesis]. Fife, Scotland: University of St. Andrews; 2011 [cited 2018 Sep 25]. Available from: https://research-repository.st-andrews.ac.uk/handle/10023/2107

4. Stokes P. Death. In: Lippitt J, Pattison G, editors. The Oxford Handbook of Kierkegaard. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press; 2013. p. 365-84.

5. Radetsky M. John Keats and tuberculosis. Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2001;20(5):535-40.

6. Martinez GG. Romanticizing tuberculosis: poetry, prose, opera and society of the romantic era [Thesis]. San Marcos, Texas: Texas State University; 2013. Available from: https://digital.library.txstate.edu/handle/10877/4661?show=full

7. Anderson RJ, Evans GL. Mental time travel in dysphoria: Differences in the content and subjective experience of past and future episodes. Conscious Cogn. 2015;37:237-48. doi: 10.1016/j.concog.2014.05.006.

8. Burwell RA, Shirk SR. Subtypes of rumination in adolescence: associations between brooding, reflection, depressive symptoms and coping. J Clin Child Adolesc Psychol. 2007;36:56-65.

9. Woodroof A, Gleason O. Psychiatric symptoms in a case of intracranial tuberculosis. Psychosomatics. 2002;43(1): 82-4. doi:10.1176/appi.psy.43.1.82-a

10. Libman RB, Rao TH. CNS tuberculosis. Neurology. 1994;44(5):987. doi:10.1212/wnl.44.5.987

11. Stappers PJ, Flach JM. Foreshadowing the future. Crisp. 2014;3:2-3.

12. Harrington R, Loffredo DA. Insight, rumination, and self-reflection as predictors of well-being. J Psychol. 2010;145(1):39-57. doi:10.1080/00223980.2010.528072

13. Bury M. The sociology of chronic illness: A review of research and prospects. Sociol Health Illn. 1991;13:451-68.

14. Kubler-Ross E. The family physician and the dying patient. Can Fam Physician. 1972;18(10):79-83.

15. Fox M. Religion, Spirituality and the Near Death Experience. London: Routledge; 2003.




How to Cite

Tetoff, T., Andrade, G., Dubey, A. K., & Bhat, M. S. (2018). Henry Peach Robinson’s "Fading Away": a learning resource for narrative of illness. Research and Humanities in Medical Education, 5, 44–49. Retrieved from https://www.rhime.in/ojs/index.php/rhime/article/view/185



Narrative Medicine