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Hitchin characters and geodesic laminations

Abstract

For a closed surface S, the Hitchin component Hit_n(S) is a preferred component of the character variety consisting of group homomorphisms from the fundamental group pi_1(S) to the Lie group PSL_n(R). We construct a parametrization of the Hitchin component that is well-adapted to a maximal geodesic lamination on the surface. This is a natural extension of Thurston's parametrization of the Teichmueller space of S by shear coordinates associated to a maximal geodesic lamination, corresponding to the case n=2. However, significantly new ideas are needed in this higher dimensional case. The article concludes with a few applications.Comment: 67 pages, 9 figures. Version 2: Minor polish (misprints, etc.) prior to submissio

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