Brill-Noether theory for curves of a fixed gonality

David Jensen, Dhruv Ranganathan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


We prove a generalisation of the Brill-Noether theorem for the variety of special divisors Wrd(C) on a general curve C of prescribed gonality. Our main theorem gives a closed formula for the dimension of Wrd(C). We build on previous work of Pflueger, who used an analysis of the tropical divisor theory of special chains of cycles to give upper bounds on the dimensions of Brill-Noether varieties on such curves. We prove his conjecture, that this upper bound is achieved for a general curve. Our methods introduce logarithmic stable maps as a systematic tool in Brill-Noether theory. A precise relation between the divisor theory on chains of cycles and the corresponding tropical maps theory is exploited to prove new regeneration theorems for linear series with negative Brill-Noether number. The strategy involves blending an analysis of obstruction theories for logarithmic stable maps with the geometry of Berkovich curves. To show the utility of these methods, we provide a short new derivation of lifting for special divisors on a chain of cycles with generic edge lengths, proved using different techniques by Cartwright, Jensen, and Payne. A crucial technical result is a new realisability theorem for tropical stable maps in obstructed geometries, generalising a well-known theorem of Speyer on genus 1 curves to arbitrary genus.

Original languageEnglish
JournalForum of Mathematics, Pi
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s), 2020. Published by Cambridge University Press.


  • 14H51
  • 14T05
  • 2020 Mathematics Subject Classification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analysis
  • Algebra and Number Theory
  • Statistics and Probability
  • Mathematical Physics
  • Geometry and Topology
  • Discrete Mathematics and Combinatorics


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