What are the best books or papers for me to read in order to write a paper on Freud and his theories of the unconscious?
A good place to start might be with a peer-reviewed encyclopedic essay by Stephen P. Thornton of University of Limerick, Ireland, happily available on the Internet:
The essay covers a comprehensive overview of Freud's concepts, including his Theory of the Unconscious and is completed by a long reference list in which you might find titles that will extend your knowledge and understanding in the right directions.
You may want to have a close look at the works of Frederic Crews. Crews began as a Freudian, but he has since become one of the most trenchant critics of Freud. He has also read widely in the work of other critics, and he is not afraid to debate remaining Freudians, as he shows in the article linked below (which also contains a listing of Crews's works at the end). Crews always writes very clearly, unlike many contemporary Freudians.
All of the above are excellent suggestions. I am going to respond with an alternative and hopefully eminently practical approach. If you are writing a paper for a particular tutor who is going to mark it, ask them specifically for a range of books that you should be refering to in order to give as complete a picture as possible in your paper. For a topic like this where the list of books you could read is endless, it is important to have a few good reputable sources of information, and using books that the person who is going to mark your paper things are reputable can't hurt either.
I agree with all the above posts in that there is an unlimited supply of books and articles written about this subject. You could read books by both the pros and the cons, the critiques, the skeptical . . . all are good reading. I think it all depends upon which type of essay you are wanting to write. If you are writing a persuasive essay, I would focus on writings that will substantiate and prove your thesis. If you wish to write a comparison and contrast essay between two or more differing opinions on the subject, then concentrate only on the writings that express those viewpoints. An informative essay, on the other hand, can use the writings of several different authors to glean pertinent facts about Freud's theories.
It is always good to show the alternative point-of-view when examining any theory--especially when presenting a side in an essay. Therefore, here are two critiques on Freud's work regarding the unconscious to examine:
"Begin and Nothingness" by Jean-Paul Sartre (1943) and "Cognitive-Experimental Self-Theory" by S. Epstein (1991).
This is a great question. The first point that must be made is that there are so many books on this topic that you will not be able to exhaust all of them. So, you will have to be selective. In order to do this, I suggestion a few strategies. First, read a recent book on this topic from a reputable scholar, so that you can use his or her bibliography. In this way, you will be able to know the general scholarship in a responsible and quick way. Second, follow up with a few of the books to gain different perspectives. Third, use an online database and look for articles through keywords. Since you are a graduate student, your school should have access to databases like JSTOR. Now let me recommend a few books.
You might want to start off with: Alasdair Macintyre's The Unconscious: A Conceptual Anaysis. This is not an easy book to read, but he is an amazing scholar and his bibliography will be great. It was also published in 2007. So, it is current. For an easier read, try: Margaret Muckenhoupt's Sigmund Freud: Explorer of the Unconscious.