Generalized Dehn twists on surfaces and homology cylinders

Abstract : Let $\Sigma$ be a compact oriented surface. The Dehn twist along every simple closed curve $\gamma \subset \Sigma$ induces an automorphism of the fundamental group $\pi$ of $\Sigma$. There are two possible ways to generalize such automorphisms if the curve $\gamma$ is allowed to have self-intersections. One way is to consider the `generalized Dehn twist' along $\gamma$: an automorphism of the Malcev completion of $\pi$ whose definition involves intersection operations and only depends on the homotopy class $[\gamma]\in \pi$ of $\gamma$. Another way is to choose in the usual cylinder $U:=\Sigma \times [-1,+1]$ a knot $L$ projecting onto $\gamma$, to perform a surgery along $L$ so as to get a homology cylinder $U_L$, and let $U_L$ act on every nilpotent quotient $\pi/\Gamma_{j} \pi$ of $\pi$ (where $\Gamma_j\pi$ denotes the subgroup of $\pi$ generated by commutators of length $j$). In this paper, assuming that $[\gamma]$ is in $\Gamma_k \pi$ for some $k\geq 2$, we prove that (whatever the choice of $L$ is) the automorphism of $\pi/\Gamma_{2k+1} \pi$ induced by $U_L$ agrees with the generalized Dehn twist along $\gamma$ and we explicitly compute this automorphism in terms of $[\gamma]$ modulo ${\Gamma_{k+2}}\pi$. As applications, we obtain new formulas for certain evaluations of the Johnson homomorphisms showing, in particular, how to realize any element of their targets by some explicit homology cylinders and/or generalized Dehn twists.
Document type :
Preprints, Working Papers, ...
Complete list of metadatas
Contributor : Gwénaël Massuyeau <>
Submitted on : Friday, February 8, 2019 - 8:51:43 AM
Last modification on : Saturday, February 9, 2019 - 1:03:18 AM

Links full text


  • HAL Id : hal-02011582, version 1
  • ARXIV : 1902.02592



Yusuke Kuno, Gwénaël Massuyeau. Generalized Dehn twists on surfaces and homology cylinders. 2019. ⟨hal-02011582⟩



Record views