Coline Covington obituary

My friend Coline Covington, who has died aged 70 of a brain tumour, was a distinguished Jungian psychoanalyst who wrote books and articles combining psychoanalytic ideas with political and social theory. Many of them explored large themes such as identity, evil and patriotism.

After studying political theory at Princeton University and for a diploma (now MPhil, 1976) at the Institute of Criminology, Cambridge University, she gained a PhD (1980) from the London School of Economics with a thesis on juvenile crime. In 1975 she helped set up the first victim-offender mediation project in the UK with the Metropolitan police.

Having written two books on Carl Jung’s patient Sabina Spielrein, she was delighted when the actor Keira Knightley, who was playing the part of Spielrein in the 2011 film A Dangerous Method, visited her to learn more about the character. Her other books include Shrinking the News: Headline Stories on the Couch (2014) and For Goodness Sake: Bravery, Patriotism and Identity (2020). She was also involved in the International Dialogue Initiative, a thinktank founded to bring politicians and psychoanalysts together to try to understand the effect of trauma and anxiety on political conflicts.

Born in North Carolina, to Coline (nee Smith), a journalist and editor of Glamour magazine, and Treadwell Covington, a film producer and composer, Coline said she barely wore clothes until she was four, and when her family moved first to Florida and then to New York she often had to interpret her mother’s strong southern accent for locals. She attended Chapin school in New York City.

Coline was married twice: to the literary agent Anthony Sheil in 1983, and then in 2002 to the art restorer Simon Gillespie, with whom from the following year she ran an art dealership in Islington. Both marriages ended in divorce.

Known for her elegant dress sense, Coline enjoyed food, theatre, opera and art, and displayed an astonishing capacity for hard work. She conducted a full therapeutic practice for 43 years alongside her many other activities, and continued working with patients until two months before she died.

At her wish, Coline’s most recent book, Who’s to Blame? Collective Guilt on Trial, will be launched at a memorial event for her in London.

She was devoted to her goddaughter, Clelia Warburg Peters, who looked after her in her final weeks.