Recommended Reading: Eisenbud and Harris, the Geometry of
Syllabus: This is the first semester of an integrated, year-long
course in algebraic geometry. Although the primary source text will be
Hartshorne's Algebraic Geometry, we will start from the beginning
with schemes to emphasize their close connection with classical varieties
and geometry, and we will supplement the text heavily with additional topics
from both modern and classical algebraic geometry. The goal for the
semester will be to cover enough that we can spend the last few weeks
discussing deformation theory, and applications of scheme theory to
classical problems. We will not assume any prior background
in algebraic geometry.
Grading: 75% homework, 25% final exam.
Homework: Homework will be assigned roughly weekly
Final exam: Takehome exam, due on 12/11.
Welcome to Math 256A: Algebraic Geometry
Homework assignments and supplementary notes, as well as lecture synopses,
will be posted here as the course progresses.
In the mean time, here are some introductory comments.
My goals for this year-long course are:
To provide an accessible introduction to the modern language
of algebraic geometry.
To provide a good working knowledge of the most basic technical
tools of algebraic geometry.
To discuss the geometric intuition behind schemes.
To give a glimpse of important technical topics beyond the
scope of the course.
To give a glimpse of some classical, recent, and current
This means we have a lot to accomplish. We will use Hartshorne's
Algebraic Geometry as our primary source text, but we will start
from the beginning with schemes to emphasize their close connection with
classical varieties and geometry, and we will supplement the text heavily,
with readings of a motivational nature, as well as with additional topics
from both modern and classical algebraic geometry.
A note on difficulty: the course will be demanding, but hopefully also
rewarding. If it's any consolation, I'm sure it will be just as difficult
for me as for you. Algebraic geometry is uniquely situated at the
intersection point of many fields: commutative algebra, differential
geometry, algebraic topology, and number theory, to name some with the
most obvious influences. While most definitions in the field have a clear
intuitive picture behind them, it is often possible for the picture to
get lost under a mountain of technicalities. To give an idea of the scope
of the problem, Grothendieck's EGA, intended simply as a survey
of the basic technical tools of the field, runs some 1500 pages —
despite the fact that only four of an intended 13 chapters were ever
written! My response to this dilemma is to focus as much as possible on
bringing out the picture behind the definitions, and giving you a sense
of the overall lay of the land in the field, while keeping the course
accessible to those who have no prior experience with algebraic geometry.
To this end, I will assign a lot of homework. I will also systematically
cite proofs of statements from commutative algebra rather than doing them
in lecture, and I will likely do the same with some results from algebraic
geometry. In both cases, there are excellent references available for the
proofs, so I feel that omitting them is the lesser of two (or several)
Note on prerequisites: the main background material for this class
will be commutative algebra. The amount of material required is fairly
modest, but includes good familiarity with localization of rings, Noetherian
rings, and basic theory of modules. Students are welcome to try to learn
this material on their own; the book by Atiyah and MacDonald (specifically,
chapters 1-3, and the first section of chapter 7) gives a compact account
of the recommended material.
Problem sets will be posted here, due on Thursdays. Problems will be
frequently assigned out of Hartshorne, so if you don't have your own
copy, be ready to get problems from the library before it closes for
the weekend. You may use any results from Hartshorne which have
been stated in lecture, even if the proof was omitted.
I will post here a synopsis of each lecture, including the sections in
Hartshorne covered, and/or any supplemental notes.
8/29: Motivational lecture: algebraic geometry through the
lens of elliptic curve theory (PS,
PDF) Purely for motivational purposes,
this will not be considered part of the course material. Introduces notions
of smoothness, compactification, intersection theory, study of points over
different fields, moduli problems, and other odds and ends.
8/31: Introduction to sheaves and schemes: classical affine algebraic
sets and their relationship to ideals, presheaves, sheaves, morphisms
and direct images (pushforwards) of sheaves, affine schemes, schemes as
(Portions of Hartshorne, sections II.1 and II.2, with some motivation from
I.1. See also notes motivating the definition of a scheme: PS, PDF)
9/5: More on sheaves and schemes: stalks of sheaves,
sheafification, schemes as locally ringed spaces, morphisms of schemes.
(Further portions of Hartshorne, sections II.1 and II.2)
9/7: Discussion of schemes: examples of schemes and morphisms,
discussion of morphisms and morphisms over a base, overdue proofs of
(Further portions of Hartshorne, section II.2. See also notes on points
and morphisms from the classical and scheme-theoretic perspectives:
9/12: More on morphisms of affine varieties. Projective varieties.
9/14: Morphisms of projective varieties. Projective schemes.
(Remainder of Hartshorne, section II.2)
9/19: An introduction to moduli spaces, universal properties, and
(See notes on Yoneda's lemma and representable functors:
9/21: Existence of the fiber product, using Zariski sheaves and
representable open subfunctors.
(See notes on Zariski sheaves and representability of the fiber product:
9/26: How to think about fiber products. Finiteness properties of schemes
(Remainder of Hartshorne, section II.3)
9/28: Fixing the Zariski topology: properness and separatedness.
(Portions of Hartshorne, section II.4. See also notes on understanding
separatedness and properness:
10/03: Immersions. Basic properties of separatedness and properness.
Statement of valuative criteria.
(More of Hartshorne, section II.4)
10/05: Proofs of valuative criteria. Proof that projective space is
(Remainder of Hartshorne, section II.4)
10/10: Introduction to sheaves of modules. Quasi-coherent and coherent
(Portions of Hartshorne, section II.5)
10/12: More on quasi-coherent sheaves and ideal sheaves. Invertible
sheaves and maps to projective space. Grassmannians.
10/17: Quasi-coherent sheaves and Proj. More on maps to projective
(Remainder of Hartshorne, section II.5)
10/19: Weil divisors, the divisor class group.
(Portions of Hartshorne, section II.6)
10/24: More on DVRs and Weil divisors.
(Portions of Hartshorne, section II.6)
10/26: Computations of Weil divisor class groups.
(More of Hartshorne, section II.6)
10/31: Cartier divisors.
(Yet more of Hartshorne, section II.6)
11/2: Cartier divisors and invertible sheaves.
(Rest of Hartshorne, section II.6, except portion on curves)
11/7: Lines on cubic surfaces by degenerations (sketch). An
introduction to dimension theory on schemes.
(See notes on dimension theory for schemes:
11/9: More on dimension theory. An introduction to flatness.
(Portions of Hartshorne, section III.9)
11/14: More on flatness. An introduction to smooth, unramified, and
(More of Hartshorne, section III.9)
11/16: The sheaf of differentials.
11/21: Miscellaneous topics related to differentials and smoothness.
11/23: Thanksgiving: no class.
11/28: Berkeley-Stanford joint algebraic geometry colloquium at
Stanford: no class.
11/30: Introduction to deformation theory and applications.
(See notes on deformation theory:
12/5: More on deformation theory and applications.
12/7: Deformations of smooth varieties and Cech cohomology.
This is a collection of cheat sheets, which are designed to serve two
main purposes: first, to help organize all the definitions and basic
results involving properties and schemes and morphisms, and second,
to include statements and references for more general results when
Hartshorne only states them under unnecessarily restrictive hypotheses.
These will be updated and expanded as we cover additional material.