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At a website called Pregly, a thread titled “It’s not my fault I have pregnancy brain” appears in the “Pregnancy and fathers” discussion forum. Interestingly, despite the forum title, all the forum posts appear to be written by pregnant mothers,butthesemothersemphasizehowtheir“pregnancybrain”hasimpacted or inconvenienced their husbands. For example, the initial post in this thread says the following: “I keep forgetting that [my partner] has already told me things or that I’ve already asked him something and he’s been getting really annoyed and nagging at me for not remembering something he had just told me. It’s not my fault [sad-face emoticon inserted here] does anyone else’s [partner] get frustrated with how forgetfull you are? Maybe it’s because he’s all hormonal. .haha.” In response to this posting, several other pregnant women chime in to reassure this mother that they are all having similar experiences. An interesting refrain in these women’s responses is that their behavior is not their fault, but rather the result of“pregnancy brain,” which is explicitly or implicitly attributed to hormones.As one woman says in the forum,“omg exact same thing here!! My husband hates it!! He gets so annoyed!! But its not our fault!!!”Another chimes in to express her solidarity:“Im glad im not the only one!! I feel bad but its not like im doing it on purpose!” Is there scientific evidence to support the suggestion that women are made less mentally competent by pregnancy hormones? If not, what are some other frameworks in which we might try to understand this experience that some women report? Is it possible to treat women’s self-reports of hormonal effects on the pregnant body as legitimate while still adopting a critical stance toward some of the precise language that is used to describe these effects, both in scienti fic texts and in women’s own descriptions? And when scientific research proThis Is Your [Female] Brain on Hormones | Enthymeme in Contemporary Discourse 7 19094-Koerber_FromHysteria.indd 156 19094-Koerber_FromHysteria.indd 156 1/15/18 4:41 PM 1/15/18 4:41 PM your [female] brain on hormones 157 duces evidence that substantiates or refutes a phenomenon such as pregnancy brain, who benefits from such knowledge? This chapter addresses these questions in a manner that continues this book’s mode of analysis—that is, by examining today’s scientific texts as part of a continuation of the much older, even ancient, texts that characterized women’s bodies as out of control, defective, and subject to change, a characterization that contrasted with men’s bodies, which were assumed to be stable, manageable, predictable, and normal.As we have seen throughout this book, the notion that women’s brains were influenced in distinct ways by their hormones or something inside the body has a long history. I argue in this chapter that the very fact that scientific experts continue to investigate a subject such as the effect of pregnancy hormones on women’s brains perpetuates a long-standing assumption that women needed to concern themselves with their body-brain relationship , whereas for men this relationship was assumed to be seamless and unproblematic. The key rhetorical concept in this chapter’s analysis is the enthymeme. Of course, traditional definitions cast the enthymeme as an abbreviated syllogism, often based on Aristotle’s description: “The enthymeme must consist of few propositions, fewer often than those which make up the normal syllogism. For if any of these propositions is a familiar fact, there is no need even to mention it; the hearer adds it himself.” However, contemporary rhetorical theorists have rejected this narrow definition. M. F. Burnyeat, in particular, denies that Aristotle even intended the term enthymeme to denote a syllogism with a missing premise: “It is a good enthymeme, not an enthymeme as such, which omits to formulate premises that the audience can supply for themselves, where a‘good’ enthymeme is to be understood, again by reference to the function of rhetoric, as one that is effective with an audience of limited mental capacity.” As this passage indicates, the term enthymeme is used more loosely in contemporary rhetorical theory than in classical rhetoric. And for many contemporary theorists , enthymemes can work for any audience, not just those of “limited mental capacity.” The previous chapter emphasized how metaphor facilitates the movement of ideas through time. In this chapter, we will see how...


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